C is for things better than cancer

You wish you could be this awesome.

There are so many better c-words in English than cancer.

(Stop snickering.)

Cupcakes, Christmas, crafts, cruise, Cancun, create, couch, corn dogs and cocktail to name a few.

Hell, I’ll take Cesearean and carbuncle over cancer any day. Give me a cohort, coefficient or a colorectal exam. I might even take cholera. Keep cancer.

I have (and had) no plans to write about cancer today – we’ll get to my plans in just a moment. I have to tell you that my sweetie woke me up this morning and he said, “Honey, can you write about something happy for C?”

I can do that. And I want to remind you all that I am OK. Really, truly. My life is pretty good in a lot of ways. It’s scary at times and it’s way harder than is fair, but life isn’t remotely fair. If it was, I would have won that Mega Millions and it would have all balanced out. Totally unfair, but I am constantly reminded that there are people in this world who have everything much worse than I do – everything. I work hard to make sure that I keep my perspective on the difficulties in my life and that I enjoy what I have. Thank you all for your concern and kind words. I’m glad you are reading! Just don’t worry about me, ok? I am writing because I want to write this story now. I didn’t want to write it when I was going through most of it this past year. I’m glad you want to read it, but just don’t fret when you do. I’m OK.

So, I’m not writing about cancer today. Not really.

I’m writing about the very best, most awesome c-word in the English language.

When Andy asked me to write something happy, I thought, “I’m writing about the happiest word I know!”

My daughter, Colleen! πŸ™‚

(I can hear it now. “Argh! Oh no! Not another mommy-blogger!” You know what? Screw you.)

This is a picture she drew of how she wanted
to look on the first day of school.

My daughter’s life has been harder than mine. She nearly died when it barely got started – at 24 days. She had heart surgery as an itty, bitty baby. Her mom had terrible postpartum depression for 2 1/2 years. Her mom got cancer when she was five years old. Her parents got divorced when she was six. Her second grade year was the kind of “mean girls” stuff that makes bestselling authors. Her home is in a terrible, financially precarious state. She has to have surgery this summer.

She has no idea this all stinks. She hasn’t a clue that her life is hard or that she should be really pissed off about the raw hand she has been dealt.

Don’t tell her, please. She is my own personal guru, my in-house Dalai Lama. If you let her in on the secret, I’ll lose my uninhibited zen master.

A few weeks ago, when I was just starting to see the light at the end of the treatment tunnel and after she had learned about her summer surgery, I realized she was having some trouble at school. Now, “trouble” for this kid means she didn’t turn in two reading assignments and the “zeros” brought her grade down, but she is in an advanced placement curriculum, reading at a college level (age 10) and her standardized test scores are the top of her class (according to the 5th grade lunch table polling). I don’t worry much about her school, but when she suddenly stops turning in assignments, I know something is wrong.

This is how she actually looked in an
outfit she pieced together from Goodwill.

We chatted. I tried to get to the root of what may be happening. Finally, I asked, “So, what do you think the problem is.” She looked at me and said, “Mom, I’ve had a lot on my mind recently.”

You can laugh now. I did.

Of course she had a lot on her mind, a fact I had overlooked as I probed for information. It wasn’t because the work was too hard or too boring. It wasn’t because she is scattered (think mad scientist) or because she was talking to her neighbor (she was, but that was nothing new). She forgot to turn in assignments she had already done because she had a lot on her mind.

How many times do I wish I had the personal insight to know that when something is going wrong for me it is because I’ve had a lot on my mind? Back in October, when I was finishing radiation and I had the monster headache that wouldn’t go away and doctors were scrambling to re-read recent tests to make sure I didn’t have a brain tumor, why didn’t I just know I was tired? Really, really tired? No, it took multiple doctor’s appointments and an hour of medical questioning for a doc to say, “I think you need rest.”

I should have asked Colleen. She would have taken one look at the situation and said, “Mom, you have a lot on your plate. Take a break.”

When she is not diagnosing fatigue or mental distress, my daughter is an amazing artist. My perspective of this might be skewed since my artistic development ended around the time I could connect the stick arms to the stick bodies on my stick family. However, others also seem amazed at her skill level, so I trust that they are seeing what I’m seeing. I’m living with the next Georgia O’Keefe.

She wants to be an art teacher. Her mom wants her to be an oncologist who cures cancer (no pressure – a cure for one kind of cancer would be fine) and I once tried to convince her of this career path by reminding her that, after she finished medical school, she could design the artwork for all of the exam rooms in the medical building she would own. She was not as enamoured as I was with the “artistic oncology” major I was pitching.

She drew this photo the other night when
we were at an Emily Ann Thompson concert.
The musician loved it and wants to put it on
her website.

When I was growing up, my parents accused me frequently of “always having my nose in a book.” This child has blown that standard away. She often is carrying 2-3 books with her and reads while walking every single day. I send her outside for fresh air and find her reading on the porch, sitting on a wall or tucked away on some random piece of outdoor furniture. I am an avid reader and can not keep up with her. (Of course, she has the advantage of not being employed.)

Much to my horror, when she was five years old, she discovered a copy of Cancer Vixen a friend had given me. It’s a graphic novel about the author’s experiences with breast cancer. I felt it was much too detailed, particularly about the emotional side of cancer. So, I told her that even though it looked like a comic book, it really wasn’t for kids. I took it away and found it in her possession again and again. Eventually, I put it on a high shelf where she couldn’t see or reach it. Some time went by – months – and it reappeared in her collection. By the time I realized it, she had already read it. I asked her about it and she didn’t seem scarred for life, so I let her keep it. She has read it so many times, she quotes it and refers to the author – Marisa – by her first name.

In fact, when I was diagnosed the second time, I told her about it and that I would have surgery. Before I could finish my sentence, she said, “and then you will have radiation.” She knew that from reading Cancer Vixen.

I love this kid so much. She is amazing and precocious. She knows and likes herself. I learn so much by watching her learn and grow. I wish every day I could be more like her. She has an ease of just being that I envy. And she paints her toenails blue.

Author: rosie

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9 Comments

  1. Your daughter is gorgeous and very wise. You are very lucky to have each other. πŸ™‚

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  2. Yes, it was happier stuff, but it still brought tears to my eyes–please be sure you keep up with the writing!!

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  3. Fabulous – you have a talented daughter to be proud of and one who loves you as much as you love her.

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  4. Yeahh… screw all of em who don’t want to read us blog about our babies.. πŸ™‚ She sounds like a very special girl & you are a fantastic writer! xxx

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  5. What an inspirational post. I don’t know if that was the effect you were shooting for, but it worked for me!

    Your daughter is lucky to have a mom with your strength. Just remember to give yourself a break every now and again!

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