Monday, August 13, 2012

Our Life in Plates

Today is the first day of school.  Last year I wrote about our back-to-school traditions, and the same things hold true this year.  One big change is that I usually shop all through the summer and squirrel away items that I find on sale.  This year, I hit Target at 8:36 pm and did a mad dash through the store before it closed at 9:00pm.  Probably not the best strategy.

Each year they get a stash of stuff, kind of like a mini-Christmas morning.  Workbooks and school supplies no longer raise their excitement levels, so I have to get a little more creative.

Before they woke up--

After they woke up--

Each year they also decorate a plate with their age, the year, their grade, and something they like at that particular time.  Here is a composite of their years.

John's plates

Travis - 2004-2007

Travis - 2008-2011

Harrison - 2004 - 2007

Harrison - 2008 - 2011

They are still working on this year's plates.  I'll post when I get around to actually mailing them in.  One time I forgot until the next year, and gave two plates as Christmas presents.

Gotta keep them from becoming too rigid, right?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The View from Up There

Yesterday, Harrison had a follow-up appointment with his surgeon.  More than any other of the many, many appointments he has had this year, this particular one was pretty straightforward, with no invasive tests or surprises.  He had x-rays, showed the doctor how he can walk and stand on one leg, and got a prescription for outpatient therapy.  All great things, but in the midst of showing many outward signs of feeling 'better', I was a little thrown off by the fact that I had forgotten to bring the pink vomit bucket.

With paper towel on bottom to prevent splashing

Ah, the little pink vomit bucket--one of the enduring symbols of this whole cancer journey.

For months, we had one in every single room of the house (two in his bedroom), and one in each car.  We still have a couple laying around.  Just in case.  Thankfully, he hasn't needed one for a while, so it is easy (for me, anyway) to forget how one whiff of the hospital can bring every bit of that nausea back.  And that is exactly what happened.  He didn't get sick yesterday, but it would not have take very much to push him right over the edge.  Scientists say that the sense of smell is the strongest memory trigger, and I doubt he will ever be able to walk into that hospital again without bringing it all back into focus--the pain, the nausea, the weakness--all kinds of yucky stuff.

Things haven't been all bad, though.  We have had a little time now to process the past few months, and are reminded every day of the amazing generosity of so many people, some we don't even know.  We have been given food, gift cards, cards, money, hugs, emails, Facebook messages, toys for the younger boys, stuff, advice and special hugs from other parents who have 'been there', new friends, rides, blood, freezers, comments from bloggy friends--and so much more--that have blessed our family beyond belief.

Harrison has had a core group of friends that have stayed around and treated him like he was still normal.  In a time of visiting restrictions and fatigue and Germ-X, they have been an unbelievable blessing not just to him, but also to this momma's heart.  He is coming to terms with having friend that appear to be deserters--for whatever reason--and is learning many life lessons from it all.  The value of true friendship is just one of those lessons.

I am experiencing survivor's guilt; the kind that comes from having had a couple of clear scans, when so, so many of our new friends never get/got this amazing gift.  It is also coupled with the knowledge that this could change on a dime with the next scan--the ones he will have every 3 months for a few years.  As my wise friend, Melanie, told me not too long ago, there are worse things than living life in 3 month increments.  It definitely makes us more intentional with our time and actions.

And another sign that things are becoming a little more normal:

It may not look like much at first, but I walked in last night and Harrison was up in his loft bed.  He had to stop using the ladder several weeks before his diagnosis because it hurt too much to climb, and had been sleeping on the floor.  Then some generous soul that we don't know (a friend of a friend on Facebook) gave us a twin bed that we stuffed into his room and that he has used for 8 months.  I went in to tell him good night, and walked out before I even realized the momentousness of that simple act.  Then I hurried back in to do a double take.

What cancer does--it teaches everyone it touches not to take even the slightest good thing for granted.

Totally serendipitous Dwight Schrute quote in background