Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The #SamStrong Perspective

"In the shadows of a golden age
A generation waits for dawn
Brave carry on
Bold and the strong..."

-Journey, Only the Young

I did not want to be there. From the moment I made the appointment, to parking the car in the lot across the street, to walking inside the lobby -- all I could selfishly think about was me not being there.

What was so wrong with that anyway? I had already recovered from multiple infections months earlier, feeling better and hoping (and praying) for it to never return. Yet, here I was waiting to talk with my doctor. Again.

"How are you doing today?" the physician assistant asked me.

"I don't want to be here, that much I know," I said.

She laughed. I was sure she heard that a lot. Then she added, "Let's take your blood pressure now."

I thought it would be higher since it sometimes spikes I get when I'm stressed, but thankfully it wasn't.

"Not bad," she said.

"Well, we'll see what the doc says."

She smiled. "I'm sure she'll have some good insight for you."

"The insight that nothing's there," I said.

Another smile. "All right, the doctor will see you shortly," she said and then she left.

Again, I waited alone in the examination room, only a sanitary paper blanket covering my lower half. Moments passed. I checked my watch in between each one. I felt cold. I rubbed my arms and read as many of the informative posters around the room that I could see from where I sat.

I checked work email on my phone and then I checked out Facebook. That's when I saw it again in the feed: the post titled I'm Still Standing. My wife's step-sister's husband had posted it two days earlier and it had been the latest update about their youngest son, two-year-old Sam.

Sam has acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). In less than two weeks after he had initially gotten sick, they didn't know what was wrong and had taken him to urgent care. Shortly after that he was diagnosed. According to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a cancer that affects the white blood cells. These cells fight infection and help protect the body against disease. Patients with ALL have too many immature white blood cells in their bone marrow. These cells crowd out normal white blood cells. Without enough normal white blood cells, the body has a harder time fighting infections.

I can't imagine. We can't imagine. Don't want to imagine. All their posts, updates and pictures with the hashtag #SamStrong that they've posted since his diagnosis have only captured a fraction of what they must be going through. He's scared and sick. They're scared and sick. They're all living in and out of the hospital while trying to continue any regularity of day-to-day life with work and school and another child, a big brother who probably doesn't really understand what the heck is going on.

The chemotherapy, while killing the cancer in Sam's body (and the cure rate is high for children), has now made their young son susceptible to other infections, wreaking havoc on his immune system. His fever keeps spiking, so now his hospital stay that should've ended was extended another few days.

What do you say to your young child who gets so sick like that? What do you say day after day of tests and treatments and long days and nights in the hospital? What do you say to each other? That it's going to be all right? You pray if you believe in God's healing, and/or you hope if you believe in the doctors' healing.

I remember when Beatrice was born, her difficult birth, and her delayed responses to the Apgar test, as she lay there wrapped up in hospital blankets. And then I remember the standard hearing test the next day when everything was fine, the diodes and wires strapped to her elongated forehead and her ears, and thought about how different it could have been. We worried that something could be wrong, the same somethings we will worry about their whole lives.

Even with the developmental delays Beatrice had early on, both our girls have been pretty healthy overall to date, and I'm so thankful for that, I thought. Both my wife and I have been pretty healthy, too. God bless Sam and his family. All we ever want is for our children to be healthy and outlive us.

I set my phone down atop my pants that sat like a lump on the chair next to me and waited for the doctor to arrive. I sat up straight and breathed in and out slowly, filling myself with a new resolve of family love and the #SamStrong perspective. It's going to be all right.

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