Before leaving for school this morning, my daughter wanted to take this picture of me:
In her words, I looked “beautiful” and she wanted me to rest to and to “listen to my body.” When I asked her why she wanted to take a picture of me when I didn’t feel well, she responded, “Maybe so you remember when you do feel good and it will make you happy and proud?” It’s 5-year-old language, but I understand the message completely.
This picture captures something unusual for me as I have been struggling more than normal lately. My energy has been draining and my skin is pale with dark circles under my eyes. I sleep a lot and spent the weekend in bed, too weak and tired to exercise or play with the girls. I had originally chalked it up to having undergone 9 chemo infusions and figured this is what happens when you spend 3 months in treatment. But it turns out I have a pretty serious bacterial infection that is putting me on my heels.
Obviously, the girls have noticed my decline. Elle has always had an interest in photography, and I think it is one way she makes sense of her world. Taking pictures of me and of us together is one of her favorite things to do. And lately, I feel she is needing me a little more. So I have made extra time to snuggle with her and to do activities with just the two of us. I worry that it’s not enough on days like today when I will spend most of it in bed by myself. But we are all doing the best we can to connect despite the ways cancer makes that difficult.
Overall, she seems to have settled into my diagnosis fairly well at this point, and we have all stepped into a space where this is our new normal. Yesterday, she surprised me when she remembered that Wednesdays are chemo days, and she was caring and supportive of my having to get treatment telling me, “I’m sorry you have to get chemotherapy today, Mommy.” I gave her big hugs and told her that I was happy to go to chemo because it means I am one step closer to being done with cancer and that it really wouldn’t be that bad anyway. I thanked her for her concern and gave her a look that said, “I’ve got this” before sending her out to jump on the trampoline. Inside, my heart fell a bit. Go be little, I thought to myself, wishing she didn’t even know words like chemotherapy.
So today, even though I’m tired and weak, I wanted to get a special picture of us. I pulled her into bed with me for some Mommy and Elle time, grabbing this shot before she headed off to school.
And as she heads out that door, I am so proud of the little lady she is becoming. I am so proud of her kindness and love for me and the rest of her family. She is an incredible big sister, a thoughtful friend, a fearless leader, and a lover of animals. I believe her heart will lead her in all her decisions and I am grateful to see that. I know her deep sense of empathy and justice will lead her to make good decisions and create a beautiful life for herself and others. I’m just so fortunate to be her mother, and to share these fleeting moments with her, soaking in her radiance and love as she sprints away from me and into her own brave new world.
Give Em’ Hell.