May is Brain Tumor Awareness Month…are you aware? Before February 2, 2005, I wasn’t. I didn’t know there was a month designated to brain tumors, I barely knew what brain tumors were. I thought they were rare, I thought they only happened to “other people”, and would never happen to a child. But actually they aren’t rare. Recently I read that within the last year brain tumors have surpassed leukemia as the deadliest cancer (awesome statistic, I know). Thankfully there has been leaps and bounds in the research and treatment of leukemia, and it’s even considered “the good cancer to get”, if that can even be a thing. But I guess if a child is going to get cancer you want one that is the most treatable, and right now that is leukemia. That is not to say that it’s not a long battle to fight and it’s also not 100% curable. There are many children who are still losing their battle to it and there is still more work that needs to be done! But brain tumors, they are nasty things. They invade the most precious part of the body and show no mercy. Brain tumors, I hate you.
What did I think cancer was before Mary was diagnosed??
1. Something that old people got.
2. Something that would rarely happen to a child.
3. It could only happen to “other people”, never my family. I remember a few months before we found out that Mary had a brain tumor I was watching TV with Mark. A commercial for St. Jude’s came on. Mark, who was in kindergarten at the time, asked me if that could ever happen to him. My response? “NO WAY MARK! That would never happen to any of us. That only happens to a few kids and it would be impossible for you to get it. That hospital is far away, don’t worry about it buddy”.
Oh how naive I was about the realities.
Even more I had no idea what the types of treatments were and what they meant.
1. I knew the word chemotherapy and I knew that people received it if they had cancer. But what it is and what I thought in my middle school head were totally different. When I pictured chemotherapy I thought this- Someone who had cancer was put into a room by themselves. Chemicals were then released into that room to be breathed in by the person…where I got this idea from, I will never really know…
2. I had no idea what radiation was.
3. Steroids were only things taken by professional athletes to make the stronger…oh how I learned the negatives (and positives) of steroids very quickly! From mood swings, night terrors, and always being hungry but never knowing what she was hungry for. We would raid the fridge and pantry pulling out every possible option for her. Of course we wouldn’t find that “perfect” option until about the 23’rd item we found in the way, way, back of the cabinet.
4. Sometimes when my hair would shed a little more than normal (TMI, I know), I would fear I might be getting cancer. I have no idea that it was a side-effect from chemo, I thought it was symptom.
And finally I never knew cancer could have it’s positives. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to downplay awful disease, and like I said before I would give everything in life back to have Mary back, but this happened to us, it’s our reality, and we have to have find the good things.
1. It gave us a community like no other.
2. It introduced us to some of our nearest and dearest friends- whether it was families we met at the hospital, families we met because Camp Sunshine- without cancer we would have never met them.
3. And what this blog is all about- it lead me on a educational and career path that I may have never gone down.
Be aware, it’s the only way we will ever see an end to this awful disease.
“What Cancer Cannot Do”
Cancer is so limited…
It cannot cripple love.
It cannot shatter hope.
It cannot corrode faith.
It cannot eat away peace.
It cannot destroy confidence.
It cannot kill friendship.
It cannot shut out memories.
It cannot silence courage.
It cannot reduce eternal life.
It cannot quench the Spirit.