In April, 2010, when Andrew was 2 1/2, a tumor was discovered behind his eye. The tumor was removed, but it was found to be an aggressive cancer. He endured seven months of chemo and six weeks radiation. In December of 2010, the day after his last treatment, he was rushed to the ER with an almost fatal bacterial infection. He survived.

He is now seven-years-old!! I don't visit here much, because during the ordeal, this is where I dumped everything--my rage, my fear, my sadness, my ugly, my hope, my everything. But I want all of you who supported and prayed for us to hear his updates. You helped me survive, and I am deeply thankful. Every once in awhile, I will check in to let you know how he's doing. Please continue to pray that cancer will never return to his body. Thank you.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A little dragon thrown into the routine

Until last April, I never realized what a blessing it is to be able to drop off and pick up my own children from school.  When Andrew was initially diagnosed we spent so much time in and out of the hospital that I rarely got the opportunity.  I had to rely on grandparents, and friends, and friends of friends....It was sad for me.  I missed it.

It made me realize that despite the frantic, sometimes screeching, search for backpacks and lunches and matching socks I really enjoy the whole "school drop off" process.  I enjoy saying "goodbye" for the day and blowing kisses out the window.  I enjoy the energy of the busy school and noticing the outfits of the teachers in the crosswalk.  I love to hear the happy screaming of the kids on the playground.  And I love seeing that big welcoming smile when I pick them up after a long day apart.

I am finally back to that routine, at least once a day on most days.  I may not always make it to pick up, but for the most part, I do everything I can to be there for drop-off.  It makes me happy.

After we do a quick drive-through goodbye for Aaron, we head straight to Sammy's preschool.  We usually arrive about 15 minutes early.  I usually spend the first few in a  frenzied scramble of mascara and foundation, applied with the aid of a rearview mirror.  After that, the three of us head to the playground for a few minutes of play before school starts.  Andrew has always been an avid fan of this pre-preschool ritual. 

Today, while I was finishing up my last few eyelashes, Sammy was pacing the car like a caged lion.  His friends were already on the playground and he was eager and desperate for me to "be done!" so he could escape and run free.  Andrew was getting animated and excited as well.  "Where's my dragon hat?" he said urgently, "I'm going to roar at them."  I opened the car door, plopped it on his head, and off he ran, following Sammy down the sidewalk.

We got there and faced a row of three four-year-old boys.  "ROAR" Andrew growled.  "ROAR!!" (This is where they were supposed to feign fear and cover their faces in horror like every nurse/doctor/adult does).   "We're not scared of you,"  they said.   "Play along boys, play along"  I thought to myself, trying to send them subliminal messages.  But it didn't work.  My heart sunk a little bit as I watched Andrew drop his head, wipe his nose with his hand, and turn around in search of the slide.  He seemed okay, but my heart was a little heavier.  That hat has become almost like a super power.  It gives him attention. It makes other people laugh.  It makes him feel a little more powerful.  And this morning it didn't work.

Later we were all on the jungle gym and Andrew was sitting next to the same "big" boys.  He was so active his hat kept falling off, revealing his bare little head.  One of the boys said, "Why did you get rid of your hair? It makes you look uglier."  I knew he did not intend to be mean; he was just being an honest four-year-old.  So I said to him in a whispered, firm, kind, warning-through-my-teeth tone of voice, "Don't say that."  Ignoring me, he repeated, "Why don't you have hair? It makes you look ugly."  And I again repeated, looking sadly into his eyes, "Don't say that."  He seemed to get it the second time.  I noticed that his eyes were understanding mine, maybe a bit.  So then I changed tactics and I said, "Did you see his scar? Isn't that tough looking?  He is bald and has a scar!  He is tough." The boys seemed to like that and said, "yeah! that does look tough."  But inside, I was feeling sad for my boy.  Andrew didn't comment.  I'm not sure he even knows what "ugly" means.  But Mama does.  And it hurt.

About that time, the classroom door was opening so I walked over, kissed Sammy goodbye and signed him in.  I picked up my little dragon and headed to the car for another day of chemo.

We are back to the old routine.  Kind of.  At least a mutated form of  "old."  We are blowing kisses, smiling, playing, dropping off, picking up....    But Andrew has no hair and a hat that sometimes works magic.  Andrew may come to the playground attached to tubes and my hip.  I am more protective.  I come armed with Purell and distracting comments.  I am more fragile and prone to cry (at least inwardly) when a four-year-old hurts my feelings.  But I am there.  And after the last few months, I feel blessed to be there.  I am so grateful for every morning.


  1. I kind of think you should've pinched that kid.
    I know that they don't get it, but at the same time I wish someone could teach them to be polite.
    Saying a prayer for your family. xoxo

  2. oooohhh... the mama bear in me is getting all worked up. I know the kid didn't understand, but it was still mean.

  3. That would have hurt my heart too :(
    You're a wonderful momma, and anyone said those things about my child who was going through the rigors of chemo and battling the awful "C" word would bring out the ANGRY momma bear in me!! *Hugs*

  4. That makes me sad... I'm sorry your morning was rough, I bet a few hugs from those adorable boys will soften things up a bit:-)

  5. Julie, you are so strong. I'm not sure if I would have burst into tears on the spot or read the kid the proverbial riot act. My wish for you is a day when dragon hats are properly feared and tough-as-nails two-year olds and their mommas are bowed down before.

  6. I don't know what I would have done in that situation, but it sounds like you handled it well. It's tough on Andrew, but hopefully he doesn't understand it all right now. The other kids will learn empathy and kindness, eventually, and probably through interactions like yours.

    I'm glad to hear there's a little of the "old" life back in your life. And Andrew can play on the playground! He's not tethered to a hospital! That's a great day every day that that happens. :)

  7. Ouch! You are right about the little boy being "an honest 4-yr-old" but that doesn't take the sting out of his choice of words. Kids can be some of the cruelest little creatures because they know enough vocabulary to get their point across but not enough tact to consider how others feel. I might have been tempted to try and explain that he had medicine that made his hair fall out, but that would probably have been too much info and may even have brought up more questions/conversation. I like the way you handled the situation even though it must've felt as though your heart would burst. You are awesome, Julie. Way to hold it all together and be there for Andrew.

  8. I started to explain about the medicine...but then he repeated the question with the "ugly" word, and then preventing that word from happening again was my main goal. Don't say that again. Don't hurt my baby again.

  9. Julie did great! I worked with Kindergarten for a very long time..sometimes it takes awhile to get through to them, but it sounds like you did it! Next time, the boys probably won't even notice. God bless you dear one. Sharon

  10. The truth is, that four-year-old probably didn't know exactly what ugly meant either, just that it implied a difference between himself and Andrew. And tell Andrew his hat did have superpowers that day: It gave you the strength to show that kid the empathy and understanding his own momma is probably struggling to teach him.

  11. My heart breaks anytime someone points out Monkey's scar on her neck. The other day a four year old walked up to her at the bus stop and asked what that was on her neck and how she got it, although I know Monkey doesn't even know what she is talking about I wanted to crawl into a hole. I just didn't want to get into it and I prayed that no one else heard that little girl. Hugs to you and your little dragon!

  12. Julie, I read this yesterday, and I was so upset I couldn't even comment. I thought about it all day. Kids can be so cruel! I'm sorry, but I think even a 4 year old can be responsible to know some common courtesy. I really do. I didn't write yesterday because I thought I'd get hate mail for saying that - LOL! I'm no mom of the year, and my kids are NOT perfect, but never in a million years would they (or have they ever) gone up and said something like that. I'm sure i'm in the minority here, but that is complete crumminess! (for lack of a better word). I don't know...I'm just a really really sensitive person, and if someone said that to my son, it would have shattered me. I'm so sorry, poor baby.

  13. Julie, If I were you I probably would have handled it the same way (and then cried later...)

    I hope asking is okay because I've taught my kids it's okay to politely ask questions (but that it's not okay to stare at others or to be mean or to ignore them).

    BUT, the kid shouldn't have used the word "ugly". That breaks my heart to hear that. I don't think the kid can be blamed though because it all depends on what his parents have taught him (or not taught him). My kids know that they are not allowed to say "ugly", "stupid" or "fat" because they are yucky words. That kid may not have been taught one way or the other. Hopefully your talking to him will have taught him a valuable lesson.

    I hope that the boys won't think anything of it next time they play with Andrew! He'll just be the kid with the cool hat...

  14. aaah :( sorry Julie - glad the routine is somewhat back, but not happy about 4-year-old comments - that's rough.
    I think you handled it perfectly - way to think of the tough scar remark quickly - I'm impressed and feel a little like strangling said 4-year-old, but that would be bad. Thinking of you.


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