The Hard Part
We’ve told the kids that I have cancer—when you’re in this situation you have to. But we haven’t told our two youngest that it might be terminal. After all medical research is progressing every day—and unless you’re in an Orson Scott Card novel, it’s hard to kill a Stilson (my maiden name).
But many kids are like miniature detectives, and they catch much more than we realize. I remembered this last night.
I’d gone to sleep around 6. One of the tumors is in my pelvis, and unfortunately it must be growing because when I lie on my right side a searing pain shoots up my body as if I’m getting tased where the tumor is. I’d been asleep for a few hours when a tiny knock resounded from my bedroom door.
“Yes?” I asked.
“Mama, it’s Indy. Can I come in?”
Indy is ten, quite small for her age, and awfully extraordinary. But as she walked in, she didn’t light up the room like she normally does and that worried me.
“I need to know,” she said emphatically. “Are you dying?”
I blinked. “I’m really sick right now, sweetheart. But I’m fighting! And some of those doctors have no idea how tough I am.”
“You missed story time tonight,” she said. “You never miss it—not really. You must be so sick!” Then she climbed into bed with me and cried so hard. “I’m just really scared, Mama. I can’t even go to sleep without you reading to me. How am I supposed to live without you?”
I tried to keep my voice from quivering, but hearing her words hurt more than when I had the back surgery, radiation, or all of it combined. “I’m stronger than this,” I told her. “I really am. But right now we need to trust that God has a plan. Everything will be all right.”
I hugged her for the longest time. Being in pain—I can handle. Most of the emotional stuff can be theorized into submission. But that—seeing my 10-year-old cry—that was a pain so terrible.... I would do anything to protect her, and now my sickness is the source of her pain.
“Wait a minute. You’re not crying just because I’m sick. You’re crying about dinner.”
“Huh?” She turned to me.
“You’re bummed we didn’t put mushrooms in it.”
“And you wanted fish!”
She broke out laughing and wiped her tears away. “That sounds gross, Mama. I am not crying because I wanted mushrooms and fish!” She smiled, and I thought that she’s such a blessing.
“I always wanted you,” I said.
“And I always wanted you!” Before she left the room, she kissed my cheek with those lips that are still so tiny. “Fine,” she said. “If you can be strong, then so can I.”
But after she left the room I cried because I had missed story time and because I don’t want to miss any number of things now OR when the kids grow up.
I breathed slowly. “God has a plan,” I told myself. “There’s good buried in this, and God really does have a plan.” With that in mind, I drifted back to sleep where I dreamed that I could walk normally and even run—and that I didn’t have a care in the world.