Gratitude: Life Without Cancer

Claire has been sick this week. It’s some virus that includes a low fever, a runny nose, and a nasty cough. She’s miserable, and frankly, so am I. This is the first illness she’s had since finishing treatment in September. This is the first time I haven’t had to run to the hospital for her fever in more than two years. That part is really nice, but kind of scary, too. I’ve grown accustomed to having nurses and doctors hover over Claire when she is sick. They are so concerned and attentive that I have often played the part of, ‘she’ll be fine.’

This time, however, I am the only one to hover, and apparently, Claire now expects to have her needs met quickly when she feels so awful. It has made for a very difficult week with a very whiny, needy child.

Caring for sick children is one of life’s challenges that few of us avoid. In fact, Avery was sick right before Claire and still has lingering symptoms. Even so, I’ve handled Avery’s excessive crying, violent coughing fits, and snotty face with relative ease. With Claire’s sickness came powerful, even crushing, memories of our chemotherapy and cancer days. These memories are so ingrained into my short years as a mother that my actions, and Claire’s actions, match the extremity of what we went through then. I suddenly feel like I’m on the front lines again.

Those days must not be distant enough.

It turns out that I am a terrible mother when I am on the front lines. My system goes into overload mode, and I only recognize VERY serious concerns. I downplay everything else – any discomfort Claire may be feeling is nothing unless it includes leg and head pain or a fever. The coughing that causes her to throw up is just an annoyance. The constant sniffling is too loud. The whining for something, anything, to relieve her suffering is inexcusable. I am back on the front lines that quickly. Unable to cope, my nerves paper thin.

I am ashamed of myself. And, yet, I am in awe of myself. Of Claire. Of Dustin and Avery. How did we do this for two and a half years? Claire and Avery have been fighting constantly since Claire’s first symptoms arose 6 days ago. They used to do that for two weeks out of every four throughout treatment. Claire went two days without eating one single thing. She used to do that for several days after clinic chemo each month. She is easily annoyed and incredibly rude to all of us. Again, this was expected for two weeks out of every month back in those days.

Home life is wretched when Claire doesn’t feel well.

I have now enjoyed 4 months of Claire cancer, chemo, and steroid free. This sickness of hers is a strong reminder to be more appreciative and grateful for her health than I have been. These past four months have been a dream (aside from the morning sickness, which I am happy to report is gone! Yay!). Claire and Avery play like the best of friends. Arguments have been rare. They both treat me nicely. Claire has had a healthy appetite and energy enough to play all day. She is growing. So is her hair! J We have done without violent mood swings. We have done without increased sensitivity to light and sound – specifically Avery. We have done all this without missing a beat. We have done this without expressing enough gratitude.

Because, do you know what? Life isn’t easy without cancer and chemo.

It’s not easy, and I forgot to remember that just because it’s not easy, doesn’t mean it’s not WAY, WAY better. We only need to get through another few days of this dreadful cough and icky feeling, not months or years, so even now, I vow to remember that I am extremely grateful for Claire. More than that, there are not words to express how happy I am that chemo is over and that Claire is healthy.


  1. Sorry Claire is not feeling well. Her hair is absolutely gorgeous!! It must grow really fast. My 5 year old's hair is nowhere near that long and I've only ever trimmed it. Hope you're enjoying Colorado. Seattle misses you, but I'm sure it's nice to put that chapter of your life behind you in memory and miles.