We all have sweet memories of childhood, most of us anyway. Why is that? I think that it's because everything is more as a child than as an adult. When a child feels joy, it fills them up; it's the only emotion they feel, so pure. But, being a child is tough, even under the best of circumstances. It's also true that when a child feels pain, it also is the only thing they feel. Embarrassment, frustration, loneliness, and oh yes, fear. All of these things are overwhelmingly pure emotions, untempered by wisdom and experience. And betrayal; a child trusts with all their heart. When you do something that hurts them, their shock is instantaneous and their cries cut through you like a knife. My little friends Kaol and Kendall were fighting one night over a game. They both started to cry and yell about how mean each other was. Endearing? Maybe it used to be. I don't remember anymore. Now it's just heartbreaking. Did I leave out the fact that Kendall has leukemia? Or the fact that their Granny and I were discussing the fact that Kendall was relapsing after two and a half years in remission right before they started to cry, and that he was going to have to start chemo again? So careless of us, as if they wouldn't grasp they gravity of our conversation. I will always regret that discussion.
When a child gets cancer, all of the pain and horrors of childhood get so much worse. Sometimes I forget that what may not seem like a big deal to me really is like the end of the world to a small child. It doesn't matter at that moment if they'll "get over it", or if they'll understand when they get older. At the moment it is the end of the world because a child has no way of knowing otherwise, they can't see past it. Cancer, of course, is a big deal to me, so how much worse for a child? And yet, most cancer kids I know handle it so much better than we could. How can it work this way? How can it be that a little boy who cries because he wanted the red car and not the green one can take a week of chemo and throwing up without a single tear? "Honey, you're going to need more surgery on your knee, and I'm afraid that you won't be able to put any weight on it for a few months." "Well, it'll get better, right? Then okay." This was an actual conversation I heard between a seven year old girl and her doctor. The same girl threw a fit that night because she didn't want to go to bed.
I don't even know if I have a point. The immediacy of a child's tears never used to make me cry, and now it does. The helpless feeling of watching a child with night terrors makes me feel terror of my own. On top of all this is the grueling physical suffering that a cancer child endures only to feel better physically and be at the whim of their emotions once more. I think I have more to say, but I don't have the energy to keep writing. I wish that Kaol and Kendall could just be happy all the time. Stupid, but there it is.