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Cancer springs eternal.

So today, Jay and I went off to the park in the morning. Jay rode his cool bike there, which means I basically pushed him and told him to put his feet on the pedals, and we ran on the tennis courts and played on the swing and fed grass to the ducks.

There was another family there with a little girl in a stroller. There were two women, seemingly a mother and an aunt, and a man who looked like a grandfather. They were having a great time throwing bread to the ducks, and watching the ducks swarm around the bread and chase each other around. The grandfather was talking on his cell phone about a delivery at the house. As they started to move over to the swings, I noticed they had a toy shopping cart hanging from the back of the stroller, with "4 West" written on it in magic marker.

My heart sank a bit.

"Excuse me," I said, "Are you regular visitors to 4 West?"

The mother stopped and looked at me for a moment, unsure what to say. "Yes," she said.

"Us too," I said. "This one's sister."

"For a month now," she said.

"I'm sorry," I said. "How is she doing? Is she getting some chemo?"

"Yes," she said, uncomfortably. "So today we're out taking advantage of the park."

"Great day," I said. "You have to. Good luck."

And off they went. I recognized so quickly the bright brittle cheer they showed. At a distance, I could see the aunt run into the leaves and fling them up in handfuls into the air, so much like Donna's Aunt Carol. All the adults ran after her, throwing the leaves up. It was for the pleasure of the girl, they might have said, but I think really, they were doing it for themselves. They were finding what hope and pleasure they could in the midst of the great uncertainty. They came together as a family to prop each other up, and by all throwing the leaves, they were showing how much they all meant to each other.

I also read a blog entry by a man I just came across today. His daughter Caroline died of a brain tumor on the same date as Donna, ten years earlier. He wrote of a marriage destroyed, of deep bitterness, and only after a long time coming to reconcile his suffering without anger. He is a religious man; I am not. I left a short note of support in the comments section.

Friday I traded emails with a co-worker whose two-year-old daughter is getting chemo for a rare kind of cancer. He's very much in the thick of treatment. I've offered him anything I can do for him, which so far, is basically nothing. I've been happy to talk about the experience we had at Children's... which he can't get into until they've swapped to the other insurance plan, which they can't do until January 1. Months, in cancer treatment of a little girl. Did I mention she's a twin? She's a twin.

In some ways, Donna's illness seems so much farther in the past than it is... two years gone is long gone when you have a new little kid and a busy job and so on. In some ways, it hasn't gone away at all, because I think of her every time I get in bed for the night, every time I get a kid's plate out of the cabinet, every time Ni Hao Kai Lan or Caillou or Yo Gabba Gabba shows up on the TV. And in some ways, Donna is still sick right now. Every time I hear a story about a sick child, a dying child, or watch a family dancing around a little girl in a stroller, throwing leaves in the air, it's happening to Donna right then and there. I can make no separation between her and another child with cancer. And clumsily, helplessly, I can't throw myself into the midst of it quickly enough.

Maybe if I can fix it for someone else, it will be fixed for Donna, and then fixed for me. Maybe.

--Donna's Daddy

PS If you listen to this while you read, you will be one step closer to having been in my head while I wrote.