True Grit

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.



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  1. Sharon D'Cunha’s avatar

    Your strength and wisdom is astounding. Sleep well — you are loved, and love so well, filling and filling reservoirs. Sending endless hugs to D, little J and you, with great hope -

  2. Shelly’s avatar

    Brave and courageous. Tender and sweet. You embody all of this and so much more. I’m glad you are taking in as much cuddling as possible and that Little J accepted your apology. What an amazing litte/big guy he is – thanks to the loving and nurturing parents he has.
    You are so wise to title your email “setback/change of plans”…since life is always about a change of plans…setbacks never really set you back once you’ve embraced the change of plans. Something you beautifully model day in and day out.
    Love you sooo much. Hugs, kisses and giggles coming from Oakland.

  3. Jo’s avatar

    A hard conversation to have no doubt, but one you clearly handled very well! He’s a great person your ‘little J’!

    This new chemo regime is just a set back Jenn, nothing more! You’ll tackle it as you’ve tackled this whole journey… with strength and good humor and so much love and support from all who know you!

    much love

  4. Helena’s avatar

    We love you. All your up-sides and bright sides and beauty. In spite of, and because of the way you face, the downsides and tears. Change of plans = the same smoothies and after dinner hugs and joy and family and friends and the most positive people possible. Change of plans = the same, incredible unstoppable you.

    Consider this a HUGE hug from all of us to you. And to Dennis and Little J. Do you see our arms wide open? We love you that much. (And more, truth be told)

  5. Leda’s avatar

    Oh, Jennifer-
    It is so hard to believe that all of this is happening to such a bright, vivacious, unbelievably strong woman. You are amazing and such an inspiration to so many! Dictionary definition of elegance= Jennifer.

    Lots of love,

  6. Jennifer’s avatar


    Thanks for your sweet comments. It’s a lot to adjust to, the idea of having chemo long-term. The chronic nature of the OC has only now begun to sink in. I’m still positive that this will be a lifestyle that we can support and embrace and that we’ll continue to live a lovely life in spite of this. That will NEVER change.

  7. Karen Rea’s avatar

    Dear Jennifer,

    My thoughts and prayers are with you. I’m so sorry to hear that chemo will be a longer term treatment for you. You continue to amaze me with your strength and courage and the pure beauty of the sentiments you express through this medium. You are truly living life to its fullest and you are so incredibly inspirational. Just wish I could give you a big hug right now.

    I love you tons,



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