When we told Little J the other night that I had to do more chemo, possibly forever, he looked at me like he was waiting for me to say it was a joke. He stared at me for a few more seconds, like a cowboy in a Western, but with chubby cheeks and a spoon full of mac-n-cheese mid-air.
He went right on eating, and Dennis and I explained that there was just a little cancer and I would have to do just a little chemo, but every week, and for a long time.
Dennis added quickly that Little J could still do Taekwondo, still play with his friends, still get walked to and from school by mom. We wanted him to know that his life would be the same without promising him that his life would be the same.
He just said, “OK,” and went on eating.
After a long silence, I added that I was sorry I told him just three months ago we were done with chemo. I really thought we were. He ignored me. I held back tears.
Dinner was long and awkward. We all talked about our days. The boys who chase the girls at school, the walks and tea with friends, the meetings and such.
About a half hour later, Little J curled up in my lap for his after-dinner hugs and said, “Apology accepted.”
I held him for a long time and have had him in my arms as much as possible since that moment.
I didn’t sleep very well that night and haven’t slept well since.
There is a bright side to what will be my new regimen. Regular small doses that my body can handle, hopefully without too many side effects will replace large, aggressive doses, the likes of which my body has still not full recovered from.
There are many down sides, obviously. The one that made me cry a lot yesterday is that I won’t be able to volunteer in the classrooms at Little J’s school anymore. I know I haven’t complained about specific losses through all of this, and I still assert that this disease has given me more than it has taken away. But I am going to complain about this loss. I love sitting and reading with those kids so much. But if I caught strep throat from one of them, it could be curtains for me. And it’s just not worth the risk. If I catch something, let it be from Little J. That is worth the risk and largely unavoidable.
Another other upside to low-dose chemo once a week is that we can all get off of the rollercoaster we’ve been on: It’s here, I’m in remission, it’s back, I’m in treatment. I will be in treatment and that will be that.
In the mean time, there will be hugs and joy, and juicing, and surrounding myself with the most positive people possible. There will be time spent with Little J, Dennis and friends. And then there will be a cure so I can get back into those classrooms.