Five years. That’s what they tell you when you have cancer. Five years before they’ll even consider you in remission – they won’t even say the word remission until it’s been five years since end of treatment.
Five years has been on my mind for the last five years. Not consciously –it’s just been in the back of my brain. Just sitting there minding its’ own business and hanging out taking up valuable space in my head. When I vacuum, it politely lifts its’ feet while doing the New York Times crossword puzzle. It’s been like a cloud hovering over my head. I’ve accepted its’ existence as a part of my life and mostly ignored it. Occasionally it rears its’ ugly head and reminds me that it exists, but normally it just minds its’ own business which I have appreciated.
The more time that passes, the less I think about it. The less I think about the possibility of it returning and the more grateful I am for the time that has passed.
With cancer, time can be your enemy or your friend. Your enemy if you let too much time pass before you do something to detect the cancer and try to kill it. Time is your friend after treatment. The more time passes after treatment, the more chance you have of surviving it and not having it come back.
With childhood cancers, early detection is moot. There would be screenings for childhood cancers if early detection was a key. Usually once the symptoms have reared their ugly head, the cancer is advanced to stage three or four and the cancer is either treatable or not.
That’s what happened to us. Five years ago my beautiful, happy, darling Dewey started limping around, complaining of pain, refusing to eat, and had a low grade fever. After multiple trips to the doctor and emergency room, he was diagnosed with Stage IV Neuroblastoma. He had just turned three years old.
Five years ago, at Thanksgiving, Dewey refused to eat or drink. The only comfort he had was sitting on my lap, or lying motionless on the couch. He was so thin he looked like a famine victim. He was in so much pain, he was miserable, and I couldn’t make the hurts go away. It was the worst time of my life.
He was lying in his bed and I was snuggling with him trying to give him comfort, not knowing what was wrong or what I could do to make the pain go away. He whispered to me, “I don’t want to die.” I told him, “Then don’t!” So he didn’t.
This time of year is always hard for me because I remember that trying time so vividly. Watching your child waste away and standing by powerless is one of the most heartbreaking things that can ever happen to you.
We don’t talk about it a lot, because I don’t want this to define him.
I just thought I would put this out there because “five years” has been on my mind a lot this past month. Also, for any of you who are suffering, I want you to know that I’ve suffered too. If I could, I would come over and hold your hand and rub your back and let you cry into my shoulder and listen and nod my head. Because I’ve been there.