Beyond the Dollars
I was a child, an 8-year-old little girl when I was diagnosed with cancer, specifically Ewing’s sarcoma to my left chest wall.
My losses were never quantified in lost wages, eviction notices, or employment discrimination. No, my losses went beyond the dollar; my losses were those of a child.
I missed my third-grade year of school; I loved school.
I missed playing time and sleepovers, giggles and makeovers, and truth or dare.
I missed being treated like everyone else;
I missed the expectation that I was capable.
I missed getting in trouble with my parents.
I missed having a voice raised to me when I didn’t do my chores.
I missed rough and tumbling with my older brother.
I missed dance and gymnastics.
I missed my shoulder-length white blonde hair.
I missed birthday parties: balloons, cake, and ice cream.
I missed going outside whether in the sun or to play in the snow.
I missed feeling good, feeling strong, feeling like doing something, anything.
I missed feeling normal.
I missed being a child, [and] while I wonder who I might have been, I know I wouldn’t be who I am without this childhood experience.
These are the costs through the eyes of that 8-year-old child.
Please don’t misunderstand me; I am not begrudging all I missed or lost; these are objective realities that have been grieved across time.
My life is full even in light of the life-threatening late effects I have faced:
I was a cheerleader in junior high school.
I was a member of the marching band.
I was a boy-crazy teenager.
I graduated from high school.
I went to college.
I majored in psychology, then went on to nursing school at Johns Hopkins University.
I gave my professional life to the nursing care of children with cancer and their families.
I went to graduate school at the University of Florida to become a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner.
I served as the survivorship nurse practitioner at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital.
I married my college sweetheart.
We delivered our firstborn, only born son, our joy 8 years into our marriage.
And yes, my heart failed 10 years ago, 30 years after my last treatment; it was amputated, and a heart gifted to me through organ donation was seated in its place.
Despite the trials of the last 40 years of my life, my heart is full of gratitude for the family, friends, friends of friends, strangers on the streets, and the doctors, nurses, and so many others who were charged with my care. They didn’t just take care of me, they care about me, about my family, and the impact my illnesses had on them.
There is still a lot of story to be written in the book of my life this side of glory and if it’s anything like the first 48 years, it’s sure to be peppered with blessings and adversity.
“As for me, the nearness of God is my good.” Psalm 73:28