I did not go into Holy Week feeling at peace or calm, and possibly there was a reason for that, a kind of premonition. Between Palm Sunday and Easter, Dennis’ coworker would lose his two-year-old son, 150 Christians would be killed in Kenya, our pediatrician would call to discuss the possibility of Wren having a tumor, Sammy’s face would swell up to three times its normal size due to allergies, and my grandmother would start bleeding out due to a gash in her colon (she’s okay now, we hope). The cherry on top of all this crazy was rage inducing PMS and the fact that I had been such a less-than-stellar parent for a couple of weeks that I couldn’t shake the shame. D pointed out that our kids had been acting kind of less-than-stellar, pushing boundaries and throwing sass, but I asked him, “Do we really get to blame the people who still have issues cleaning their own butts properly?” Only God knows how we survived.
But we did, and amongst all the news that shatters nerves, He is still risen, every day, all the time. It makes the not knowing bearable, the sadness momentary, the lack of sleep, the stress, they become a part of the journey, one that leads closer to Christ as we are refined. Opportunities to grow and learn, sometimes to relearn, emerge. The goodness of others prevailed as my sister gifted me with an hour long massage because she knew after four kids spent eight days puking on me, a break was needed. Plus, she sensed my crazy increasing during our phone conversations. Grandparents cooked gluten-free breakfast, following every step of protocol to avoid cross-contamination, while I slept in. My husband and family members collectively cared for our four young kids and offered me an opportunity to drive the hour to the hospital where I spent time with my Nanny, who was small and pale in a hospital bed but still wearing earrings and talking of escape. And I remembered that the game-the one D and I call turtle, turtle-, the retreating to the shell during distress is sometimes the answer, but not all the time, and I might play it a little too often. Even in the midst of great sorrow and agonizing waits, the cocoon of others is a salve.
And then after weeks of hearing the words “cancer”, “family history”, “increased risk” and “has the symptoms” referring to my six-year-old daughter, I learned new words: fat pad. That was the official diagnosis after the ultrasound that easily shaved 10 years off my life. Fat pad. As in, Wren’s thyroid is normal-sized, no goiter, lymph nodes within normal-sized range. Yes, a few thyroid levels are slightly off, her liver is obviously underperforming, she is still at increased risk of papillary thyroid cancer due to Celiac, but as far as that swelling in the throat that our very conservative doctors thought might be cancer? It’s a fat pad. A pad of fat, my friends. My child has maybe 0.00001% fat on her whole body, and apparently it is all in her neck helping hold up her head.
We’ve had fun with that phrase. I call Dennis at work and conversations like the following commence:
Me: D, I think I’m pregnant!
Me: Oh, wait, that’s just the fat pad covering my stomach!
D: What are you doing today?
Me: Sitting on my fat pad.
We will still have to be on the look out for tumors in Wren’s thyroid since a gluten-free diet seems to lessen the risk of her getting this kind of cancer by absolutely zero percent. Her liver and thyroid have struggled since her Celiac diagnosis, but we’ve avoided meds and both organs are just on the we-have-our-eyes-on-you list. It will be challenging to detect any tumors in her thyroid gland since she is already larger in the neck area. It would be like if I was looking for a tumor in my thigh: unless it’s the size of a toddler, it’s going to get lost in the fat pads. But still, we know to look and watch, not as those who live in fear but as those blessed enough to have the information to do the best we can.
After the ultrasound Tuesday, we came home and the kids played in the backyard, looking for bugs and digging in the dirt. Here in the homeschool world we call that science! I was watching all four of them, and I was grateful for sunny days and naptimes, even when they go awry. I was thankful for little boys who pee in the backyard because they can and girls who marvel at lady bugs, grateful for toddlers who crack themselves up and give kisses to all of us. It felt normal. It felt surreal after weeks of not normal.
Then just to prove we had in fact arrived back at normal, I heard Wren’s sweet voice.
Wren: Sammy, check it out! I found a snail, I named him Slimy, and he just sharted in my hand! IN MY HAND!
For better of worse, for us, that's a return to charted territory.
|Wren and Slimy|
|Sammy, allergic to grass, pollen, and possibly certain types of air.|
|Eowyn in the purple. The girls ready to blow this joint!|
|Shaving your kids head because the rash caused by his allergies covered his scalp and had to be medicated? That's allergies, Ramirez style.|