I just marked my calendar: January 2nd, “LAST CHEMO”
I mean, it’s a relief, really. A joy to be done with this! No more sick babies, hospital visits, throwing chairs as I dart across the room, tub in hand, at the sound of retching.
No more fear of missing that one hint that my child is dying.
I sigh and share the news. But I wonder.
Who will we be when this is done?
When the treatments are over and I’ve affectively wrangled my calendar back from the likes of surgeons, doctors, and hospital schedulers;
When Gabe’s hair is dark and thick on the top of his head;
When I can forget my phone atop the microwave in the kitchen;
When my husband and I can talk about something other than hospital appointments and blood counts;
When my other children can feel important for their own accomplishments rather than just because their brother has cancer.
When we can get back to “normal.”
“Normal,” however, ought never be trusted. As it turns out, when something like cancer enters the room, normal has a way of shifting its relative center dramatically. So “normal” before cancer was something very different from our current “normal.”
“Normal” then included priorities like political opinions and remembering field trips and good attendance at school. It included strict rules around vegetable intake and what we wore to church and school. It included carefully following social expectations in communications: so many “I’m sorry”s and “If you have the time, would it be ok if…”s.
“Normal” took for granted that everyone would live. Cancer abruptly interrupted that normal laughingly tossing it aside like a tornado would do to a 40 ton truck.
Today our “normal” will take the kids to a Bruins hockey game on a school night and would be ok with a C on a test if I knew they had tried. “Normal” now celebrates dinners together, especially if I even had the time to cook a chicken. And it finds joy in a neighbor’s tuna casserole, enough for 2 dinners and a lunch.
Our new “normal,” accepts that there’s always time for a good cry, hugs in front of the tv, and long talks about fear and sadness.
It allows for the words “sucks” and “bad ass” in normal, every-day vocabulary.
Our new normal sees life as something that is precious and fragile and serious.
If there’s one thing I can be sure of its that, on January 3rd my son – my family – will not be going “back to normal.”
What I am not at all sure of is who we will be when “normal” shifts yet again.