It has felt like a lifetime, but somehow or other, Peter made it through another month of treatment and is now on his 3-week break. This past month has been full, but in good ways.
At his last hospital stay, one of the child life specialists told us to view this treatment plan as doing all sorts of fun and normal things in life and occasionally having to go to appointments and stay in the hospital. That piece of wisdom has changed my perspective on how we are going to approach what God has given our family.
During this past month, there were plenty of moments that were hard reminders of what we are dealing with. Due to the medicines he needs to take to rid his body of cancer, Peter now has some hearing loss in both ears, his kidney levels and hemoglobin levels were low. He has been dizzy and had headaches. There are days when it hurts to walk.
Despite all this junk, we have had so much joy together. Almost every single night, Dan plays soccer or kickball with the kids. It is the only thing Peter really looks forward to all day long. Even if we need to carry him up to bed because his legs are wiped out, the boy goes out there and plays as hard as he can. And Dan and the girls have no mercy on him- the competitive gene is strong in this family!
This past week, the incredible school that Peter and the girls attend did a 2-day fundraiser for pediatric cancer research in support of Peter and another warrior girl in the school, Maddie. The 2nd grade teacher who organizes this event - who very well may be a walking saint - started one of the events off by asking the boys and girls to listen quietly before the fun started. She asked the entire school body to stand if any of the following were true: did they sponsor someone cutting their hair; did they raise money to pie a teacher or an 8th grader in the face; did they sign up to participate in the dance-a-thon; did they volunteer to shave their head or cut their hair; did they volunteer to get a whip cream pie in the face; did they make cards or videos for Peter; did any of the parents that were in attendance volunteer to work the dance by selling snacks; did any of them pray for Peter. By the end, every person in attendance, aside from Peter, was standing. And I was kneeling next to him wiping away tears that couldn't stop falling.
When I watched the boys shave their heads, I continued to wipe those tears away, remembering how sad and scared Peter was when his hair fell out. He was afraid he would get teased and feel ugly. We watched these boys make a choice to go bald to show their support for my little guy and I thanked God for this community.
Last Sunday, while at Mass, Peter invited our pastor, Fr. Redcay, to his first lemonade stand. As Mass went on, Peter wasn't feeling well and needed to leave Mass with me. He and I sat in the vestibule while Mass continued, so that he could get air and I could give him some medicine. At the conclusion of Mass, our wonderful pastor invited the whole parish to come out in support of Peter's lemonade stand.
I believe and trust that God's plan will always be better than anything I try to plan. He only wants the very best for us and if we let Him, He will give us the very best. Four years ago, Dan and I moved our family from our sweet first home out here to Malvern. As good Catholics, we "Church shopped" wanting to find a parish community that felt like home. We went into St. Patrick's in the middle of the summer and were introduced to our pastor. At Communion time, my Mom, who had come to Mass with us, elbowed me and said, "Tricia, look at all these young families here. In the summer. This is incredible." When Mass was over, our pastor walked outside to find us and chatted with us, asking if we had any questions and said he hoped we'd be back.
Well, fast forward 4 1/2 years and I think I now understand God's plan in our decision to move to this parish. In truth, I do not know how my family would be handling Peter's cancer diagnosis without the support of our parish and school community. Not only did that entire student body stand showing all the ways they've supported Peter, but it felt as if nearly the whole parish came out for a cup of lemonade this past weekend or made a donation.
Yes, we are the family whose 7-year-old boy has brain cancer and that stinks. But we are also the family that is constantly shown how kind, thoughtful, generous and supportive humankind can be. We are the family whose classmates and parish show their children that they matter and are supported. We are the family who have friends and family, near and far, who show us love, day in and day out, by their kindness and the countless ways they take care of us - from playing Barbies with Norah, to setting up and breaking down lemonade stands in 90 degree weather, or talking all things Greek mythology with Peter, to name a few.
We are a living example of Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope." So we will continue to trust in God and His plan for us.