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.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

To cry, or not to cry

I've been thinking about tears...

I've been making a lot of them over the past six months.

I have this ideal in my head that I shouldn't cry in front of my children; it will make them scared; it will make them worry; it will make them sad.  So I try to save the tears for private times and private spaces.  But sometimes...well, sometimes ideals are hard to live up to.

The other day while Andrew was in the outpatient clinic getting blood, I wrote this (tears streaming):

As the nurses pass by,
I raise my book to cover my eyes,
an obvious effort to hide the tears
and the pain
that no one wants to remember
are there,
forced down beneath a smile
like a Jack-in-the-Box
below it's cover,
with the crank constantly churning,
threatening to burst out
at any moment.

I seem to be able to handle and repress the deep grief, the deep sobs.  I save those for John and his shoulder, or my own pillow. But the "in between," the tears that are more than brimming, but not convulsing, spring out when I least expect them.

And Andrew is usually the one to see them.  I know they bother him, so I try to mop them up quickly.  He will say things like "Stop that crying Mama!" or "Are you sad 'cuz we are in the hostibal?"  or "Are you sad because you don't wanna go to bed?"  Or when we are at home he might say, "Why are you crying, Mama? We are at home!"  He looks at me, exasperated.
I guess I cry in front of him a lot more than I wish I did.  What can I say.

But I'm learning how to answer his questions.  Initially I would just deny, and "suck them in," and pretend.   "No.  No, I'm not crying (sniff)."  But he is too observant and too smart.  He calls me out.

So now, depending on the circumstances, I use one of a few options:

Sometimes I just agree:  "Yes sweetie.  I am crying because we are in the hospital.  I wish we could be home.  But at least we are here together, right?" 

Or I explain,"I'm not crying because I am sad.  I am crying because someone said something nice to me.  Sometimes I cry even when I'm not sad." 

Or, I am honest (well, kinda):  "I'm okay, just a little sad."

And then, he says sweet things, but things that makes me feel even more guilty for crying.  Like, "It's okay Mama.  We will go home soon."

or "It's okay, Mama.  You don't have to be sad."

or just, "It's okay Mama (with a big hug)."

I don't want him to feel like he has to take care of me.  I don't.  But tears are tricky things. They make people want to take care of you.  They make others want to DO SOMETHING, even if/when you don't want them to.

I joked the other day that I need to hide my tears when I'm at the hospital because otherwise they will sic the social worker or the chaplain on me. (Truth be told, the chaplain is very sweet and has a Scottish accent, so I don't mind too much).  But I think the hospital must have a "CODE TEARS."  "Tears in room 6.  Tears in room 6. Must fix.  Must fix."  It is hard to watch other people in pain.  I get that. 

Most of the time when I cry, I just want to be left alone. But other times, I don't even realize how much I need someone to reach out to me.

Last week when it was Andrew's birthday I had such a hard time holding it together.  There we were, sitting in the hospital, on his birthday, getting chemo and it was just too much.  I spent the whole day crying.  (It is hard to hide from Andrew and everyone else for a whole day.) 

My nurse noticed and was very sweet (quite a change from "Ursula.")  She took me "under her wing" for the day.  And honestly, I needed it.  My tears were a message, and I couldn't hide it.  Thankfully, she interpreted correctly.

Sometimes the solution is just to cry and cry and cry.  But I can't to do it all the time, and I don't want to.

It is hard to balance it.  It is hard to control emotions that have their own sense of timing.  It is hard to cognitively force back tears, even with the best of intentions.  So Andrew will see me cry.  The nurses will see me cry...(and the social worker, and the Scottish chaplain, and ...whether I like it or not, many people will see me cry.)

But I continue to try to keep those "Jack-in-the-Box" tears hidden and repressed for those safe and private moments...

But then, when the kids are asleep, when the door is locked, when his shoulder is ready, when my pillow is positioned...  I turn that crank.

I turn that crank and let 'em spring.

I let 'em rip.


  1. I'm so sorry. i could not even imagine your pain. my heart is with you.

  2. Andrew is learning so much about empathy and comforting others by 'taking care of you'. Of course we don't want our children to go through hard or horrible times, but they do grow through them. There are time when you have to be strong for him and it's okay that there are times when he is strong for you. That's love, right?


  3. Oh, I think tears are so theraputic and can be like a good dose of medicine. I can cry right along with the best of them when I have a need to cry. I find it a great release.

    I cannot imagine the journey you are on with your son but I pray God will wrap you in His comfort and peace as you go forth. Blessings!

  4. I can't imagine Julie. I'm so sorry. I'm a VERY emotional person and wear my heart on my sleeve. To go thru what you are enduring, I would be a mess. Praying that God will comfort you and give you strength!

  5. I think it's good for Andrew to be able to take care of you sometimes, too. It helps one feel a bit less vulnerable when you can help someone, even when you're in the midst of your own mess. Andrew is one tough little guy and he has a sweet love for his mama. ♥
    Sometimes you just have to let it go no matter who is watching. I had a hysterical "ugly cry" last night, luckily only my hubby was watching. :)

  6. You are amazing. You know...I think that Andrew knows his mommy is strong, and you are showing him that emotions are okay. Tears can be the strongest thing sometimes. They show that you are serious, committed, involved, 100%.
    Jesus wept.

  7. Dearest Julie, sometimes when I read your posts I have such a difficult time commenting. Sometimes I am crying with you, other times I am rejoicing over the hurdles that you both have leaped over together. But mostly I feel that my words are inadequate. I am here, I am with you and Andrew praying for the strength and courage that you need now, and will need in the future until your baby boy is free of this insidious illness. He will make it through this, friend, and he will grow to be a gentle, and kind man, just as he is as a boy. I am praying that this special bond between you and Andrew, although born of despair, continue to manifest into a pure and everlasting joy.
    As always,

  8. (((hugs)))

    Aw, sorry, Julie. Let it out when you can. It's the only way.

  9. Julie, you are right, it is very hard to see someone in pain and not try to fix it -

    Yesterday I cried reading your post
    Yesterday I felt the urge to take your pain away...
    Today I am ready to be there for you...
    To sit in silence and let you cry if you need to...
    Today I will cry with you...AMAZING WOMAN!

  10. I read your post and cried. really, cried. And I thought about all of the things that I could or should say. As your friend, I wish I could take all of the pain away and make Andrew healthy. No more cancer. And you would have your life back. The one you had before he got sick. I wish I could. But I can be here. Right here for you - listening and encouraging ever step of the way.

  11. Man, how could you not cry? Rivers. It's such a stress relief, at least for me. It's a physical way to release the mental burdens. Even though those burdens are still there when my tears are dried, they are, at least for a moment, smaller and quieter.


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