The other week we were back at the hospital for appointments. I miss recognizing faces as we navigate the hospital halls. I miss knowing stories. But so is part of the change of moving. Not knowing.
Kate and I were sitting waiting for her name to be called to meet with her oncologist. I am scanning the room, wishing I could hold the small baby I see. His shunt is obvious with no hair. His skin is so pale. He whimpers a lot. His dad paces the small waiting room, they too waiting to meet with the same oncologist. The mom sits silently on the verge of tears. I selfishly want to ask to hold him. But understand full well that would be creepy, or simply unsavory. Mother bears come out on the oncology floor, and rightfully so. Unable to protect from the ills of cancer most moms (and dads) feel heightened to protect from anything they actually can control. That I do understand, and so I stay silent. And then they leave, I will never know his story. If he survives this cancer. I wish I had known his name. Then there is the boy only feet from us.He too I assume had brain cancer. He can barely speak, barely lift his head.The wheelchair houses his body. His mom is trying to coax words from him. He tries, to no avail. She gently strokes him anyway. The nurse stands by with a gentle look of compassion, fully in the moment. Like he is the only one in the world. I love that. He must be in pain because his skin is so tight it looks like it could tear. I wonder if it’s the chemo. It’s red almost like severe sunburns. I only wish he could have been at the beach. He moans. His mom tells the nurse he just celebrated his birthday. She tries to get him to say how old. He tries. And again. And then something sounds close to 20. I wonder how much he celebrated. And suddenly a rush of memories washes over me. When she was so sick. When she was could only speak simple words. When it took both Aaron and I to bathe her. When I would fall asleep in a puddle of tears, but her in my arms. I ached as I saw the familiar play out around me. And once again felt such little control.
Kate’s name is called so we get up to leave. I hate to sound like I was listening. But I was. So I had to tell the boy happy birthday. Who knows how many he would have. So I simply wished him a happy birthday and said goodbye. Then as I walked away I heard his mom call after me. “Thank you, thank you so much for acknowledging his birthday, and him.” The kindness in her words stung. I wondered if many turned away. Didn’t acknowledge him. Couldn’t handle seeing the anguish so they chose not to look. I wanted to do something, say something, throw him a party, something. Not just walk away. But we were ushered away.
And then I felt that gentle nudge. We could help some. We could acknowledge some. We could love some. It might not cure the ever hated cancer. It might not dry the eyes that keep pouring. But sometimes even just being noticed, or recognized, well sometimes it shines of love.
Some of you have championed these families in the past by helping us give to them during the Christmas season. It began as a way for us to celebrate Kate’s birthday (December 26th) and honor other families facing life changing diagnoses of cancer. We would love for you to join us again this year, or join us for the first time. We will be collecting gift cards all of which will be donated to families fighting pediatric brain cancer this year. Some in the throws of those initial days, and others living out the realities that the cancer left behind. It’s a far cry from a cure. But it’s something we can do. A simple acknowledgment, that we recognize their need. We recognize their heartache. To just reach out and say we care. I will be posting more information in the coming days…. We will be accepting gift cards of all types. But specifics will be posted. Please consider joining us. And if you have a family you would like to nominate please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Soon information will be posted at www.prayforkate.com, along with some pictures of some of the children we will be supporting this Christmas season. Thank you for walking this with us.
Mailing address for Kate’s Christmas drive
Holly McRae (please put my name first)
Kate’s Crazy Christmas
PO Box 8457
Alta Loma, CA 91701