Monday, August 26, 2013
When confronted with someone's grief or pain, someone's terror for a sick child or other loved one, someone's own illness, it is common and understandable to want to ameliorate that grief or pain or terror by cheering them up.
STOP DOING THAT.
When you tell a person that it's happening for a reason, or that it's all going to be okay, or that God has a plan, you are putting a burden on an already overloaded person. Your interaction includes an expectation of a response, and that response contains an expectation of feeling better. You may not realize that you are doing this, but trying to cheer someone up by minimizing their grief or pain carries the message that says, "You should stop feeling the way you are feeling and feel better now."
That's trivializing what the person is going through. And creating an expectation that they must either respond to or silently try to ignore. In trying to help, you are making it worse.
So what should you say? Some version of "I am so sorry. This is terrible." It carries no expectation that your words will magically lighten their burden; it just acknowledges their pain. By acknowledging their pain, and not putting an expectation upon them to feel less of it, you are allowing them the choice to share more if they wish. If it's someone you know well, they might want to talk about it. If they don't, it's not a reflection on you.
Friday, August 23, 2013
I have gotten lots of comments and messages from people who are praying for Becca and her family. And I deeply appreciate those messages and those prayers. I am certainly praying as well. It's a comfort to know that people are sending so much healing energy to her.
But I'm having a lot of trouble, emotionally, with the "Put everything in God's hands; God will cure Becca" people. I know they mean well, but their version of God fills me with fiery rage.
Because if God is so freakin' clever and all-powerful, why is Becca going through this in the first place? Why was there a tumor at all? What kind of psychotically insecure egomaniac is this "God" person that he's up there thinking, "Wow, I'm feeling underappreciated. I think I'll give this innocent child a brain tumor that will cause her to spend months suffering and put her family through the kind of unimaginable trauma that will lead to life-long emotional scars, just so I can cure it and have a bunch of people appreciate me."
Why would *anyone* want to worship that kind of sadistic lunatic? If I met him, I'd just want to punch him in the throat.
I don't believe that God controls all things in our lives and this is all part of some kind of master plan. I believe that when God gave us free will, that meant stepping back from being a controller, not just of our decisions but also of the world in general. But I believe that we were blessed with a special kind of grace: the power of prayer. I believe that we were graced with an ability to affect events, not hugely, but to nudge them to a better place. We can't pray away a hurricane, but we might be able to diminish its power or "scooch" it aside a little.
We might be able to increase a child's odds of surviving.
And so I am grateful for the power of prayer, and the fact that so many people are praying so hard. But please don't tell me that this is all "God's plan."
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Pathology report in. It's the bad kind of tumor. With 6 weeks of extreme radiation treatment and another year of chemo, Becca has a 50/50 chance of seeing her 10th birthday. I can't even process it.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Thursday my husband and I were only 45 minutes from his family in Connecticut, just crossing the TappanZee Bridge on our way through New York when we received a call from the father of our godchildren, Eric. Their 5-year-old daughter, Becca, who had been sick with strep during their vacation on the Jersey Shore, was being life-flighted to Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania (CHOP).
With a brain tumor.
Five. Years. Old.
My heart was in my throat, my eyes were filled with tears. My mind could not even process that this precious, darling, spunky and stubborn little imp was in mortal danger. We asked what we could do. Eric was so stunned and desperate that he couldn't answer the question. So I asked, "Where do you need us to be?"
The answer was, with the other kids, who are 9- and 2-years-old. So that Eric and Kat could get to Philadelphia as soon as possible. We immediately turned right and headed for the Jersey Shore, calling Ferrett's family to explain why we weren't able to come to the funeral--and to their credit, they were all supportive of caring for these children.
We got to Jersey late Thursday night, and Friday morning we packed the kids up and headed up to CHOP. The toddler didn't understand what was happening, but big sister understood and was frightened.
We spent the rest of the weekend at the hospital, while Becca went through two major brain surgeries, the first to relieve her intercranial pressure, the second to remove the tumor.
The good news is that they believe they got almost all the tumor. The bad news is that the type of tumor that it is may be really, terribly, aggressively bad. We are praying that there is a chance it will be a less aggressive type that LOOKS like the bad type, but we won't know for sure until the pathology report, which we won't get until tomorrow or Friday at the earliest.
After the weekend and the surgeries, Kat and Eric decided to send the other kids back to the Shore with their aunt for the rest of their vacation. Their regular sitter offered to join them there. They will be there until Sunday, when they will return to town so that the oldest daughter can start school.
We have no idea when Becca and her parents will be able to return home.
The parents have asked me to take point on organizing childcare and meals for the coming month and maybe more. We will be spending a lot of time at their home. I'm hoping the puppy and the kids get along.
We had to drive back on Monday, and it was the hardest drive ever. We were leaving behind people who really still needed us, and we were missing Jimmy's funeral, too.
Then we got a call to tell us that DH's grandmother had died that morning. His dad knew, but he wasn't telling any of the rest of the family before Jimmy's funeral.
We mostly drove in silence. We couldn't find anything to say.
Becca had another brain surgery yesterday to create a permanent drain for her cranial fluid because the first surgery didn't work. She feels better, is eating, and will be moving from ICU to the neurological oncology floor. But all the good news is overshadowed by the black cloud of that pathology report.
I'm home, and I'm getting done the work that I absolutely have to complete. But I can't concentrate on much.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
My husband's cousin was killed in a freak and catastrophic bicycling accident. On Monday, he was riding on his mountain bike and lost control when the terrain changed. What should have just been - and has been many times in the past - a bruising tumble from his bike turned to unimaginable horror when the handlebar rammed through his left eye socket and into his brain, inflicting horrific damage. He was rushed to the hospital, but it quickly became clear that all upper brain function was destroyed. Obeying his wishes, his parents took him off the ventilator and he died this morning.
He was 29.
I don't even know how to begin processing all this. We will be heading out for the east coast tomorrow morning. I don't know when the funeral is planned yet.
It just keeps hitting me. Young, vibrant, athletic.
Hug your loved ones.
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