Different.

I’ve skipped a couple posts this week, one that I should have written about losing Hajjah Jamillah, and one that I should have written about Valentines and how big my heart feels cutting out paper hearts with my little one, and one that expresses my love for WD.  But today there’s a different post on my mind heart that I want to share with you.

This morning we went to a birthday party.  Thirty preschoolers and toddlers, one moon bounce, a parachute game, three cakes, and a ton of pizza.  It was absolutely marvelous, and wonderful fun as all the kids ran around in freshly made t-shirts, laughing and giggling.

Eventually, Widget (who didn’t know most of the other kids) joined in too.  As he did, though, I felt my defenses weaken and my eyes fill up with tears.  I stood casually by the piano, choking them back, and then went into the hall and let them out.

I was struck, immediately and powerfully, at how beautiful all these happy, laughing children were, and how casually their parents hovered or sat at the tables talking to each other.

I was struck by how much I stuck out as different, a mom without (much) hair and without breasts and without conviction that today was just another ordinary day.  Instead I felt somehow pressured to enjoy every moment, to laugh, to play, to make this the best party EVER … for who knows whether we would be there for the next one? 

I was struck by how much I wanted the general happiness in the room to extend to my children, and how I wished that their greatest worries were whether it was their turn on the slide, and not their mother’s serious illness.

I cried and cried, and then a friend found me, put her arms around me, and reminded me that it was completely normal to feel this way.  That I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t.  But my boys do have a good life.  They are well cared for.  They know that they are loved, not just by me, but by many people.  They are developing empathy, and they will grow up to be wonderful boys and men.

And then another friend and I sat and talked while the children played, and it was better.

Late last night, after WD and I came to bed, we found a little interloper already snuggled in beneath the covers.  While this is normally not a problem, last night we had yet to treat my scars and drain my lymph nodes with a series of exercises.  I’ve kept my scars from him (he asked to see them once, but then they frightened him), so I turned away while we did the first steps. 

But then something amazing happened.  My precious three year old sat up, crawled over to us, and asked to help.

We gave him a simple job, and he did it well.  He went to the next room and got the cocoa butter and then, of his own volition, helped WD gently spread it on my scars, murmurring to me all the time.  He then patted me on the head gently and told me, “It’s okay, Mom.  It’s okay.”

And so it will be.  Our new life will be different, but also okay.

51 Responses to Different.

  1. It is OK Susan, and its going to get so much better!! Big hug’s for you and a special one for your son. Your friend was right, they are already great boys and will become Fantastic Men!!
    Brightest Blessings to All.

  2. tracey says:

    Oh, what a sweet child… Love for you, hon.

  3. Susan K says:

    What a wonderful little boy you have. Don’t worry too much about protecting him and scaring him. NOT knowing may very well be worse, and he has shown you now that despite that original fear, he overcame it and wanted to help!

    I am glad you enjoyed the party, and sorry you got overwhelmed, but as your friend pointed out, that is so very much to be an expected reaction. So let it out, acknowledge it, and overcome it. You WILL be there, and every party does NOT have to be perfect, because there will be a next one.

  4. Joanna says:

    Susan, your post drew me to tears. It doesn’t help that I am now listening to a beautiful song, ‘Up to the Mountain,’ by Patty Griffin, while I read this. Your words reminded me, truly, of a dam breaking. How you have so valiantly raised your head high through all of this the past 8.5 months, and here on the other side of your illness, it – of course – breaks through. How could it not? Man, you live your everyday life as I strive to. I am reminded through your daily strength and courage, just as a strong woman, not even a cancer survivor, how to live better. I am so glad you had friends there to hug you, which you so deserved. You have so many people who lift you up, and I am so happy for you for that. You have a wonderful husband and two wonderful sons – oh, your story of your oldest boy’s help last night – wow…You are a gift to this world. I’m so glad you are indeed ‘over the mountain now.’ All your friends, and all your readers here, are holding your hands as you walk valiantly down this other side. You will never walk alone, ever.

    Your new life, albeit different, will prove just as wonderful. Time is healing you every day, and will continue to. I find change to be a blessing and a terribly hard thing all at once. Even whilst overcoming hardship, mere ‘change’ can be quite hard. Hugs –

  5. Cathy says:

    That is a beautiful story. All of it – from the birthday party to your beautiful son helping and assuring you it’s going to be okay.
    Just beautiful.
    Thank you for sharing this and everything else.

  6. Jenster says:

    You must (and I know you do) give yourself permission to feel these foreign emotions. I do promise you it will get better, but after 2.5 years I wonder if it will ever go away. I kind of don’t think it will.

    The story about your child helping is beautiful. Simply beautiful and what an incredible man he’s going to be some day. Because he’s got some pretty incredible parents!

  7. Kolleen says:

    It sounds like you have a wonderful child who has been raised by wonderful, thoughtful parents.

  8. MammaLoves says:

    Okay, now I’m crying. What a sweet boy. I have no doubt where he learned it.

    You may be experiencing emotions at a heightened level, but your friend is right. They are normal and you are experiencing them. The alternative is so much worse.

    Through your eyes and words I am reminded to enjoy those moments with more attention. Thank you for that.

  9. deb says:

    I think your boys are going to grow up to be amazing men, kind and compassionate. As for crying, I think I’d be doing a lot of that.

  10. abunslife says:

    That is so amazing and sweet that he was such a big boy and wanted to help his mommy. They know and understand so much more than we give them credit for. Thank you for sharing everything…..it always helps me put things back into the proper perspective about what is really important.

  11. chantillylace1979 says:

    That is so sweet! I am in tears after reading this. Thank you for sharing something so personal to you.

  12. Jessica says:

    Thank you for writing this and sharing it with us. Your beauty and strength and ability to communicate your joy and emotions just amazes me.

  13. Tara-Lynn says:

    Your post brought tears to my eyes. Remember, you have been through A LOT and it is o.k. to have emotional highs and lows.

    What a wonderful family it sounds like you have.

    Keep getting stronger!

  14. okayfinedammit says:

    Once again, you’ve got my nose stinging and my throat clenched and I can’t see the screen through my tears.

  15. Char says:

    You have the most amazing family, and kids. It’s so wonderful that they are there to help you, no matter how big or small the task is. Keep on plugging away, the days will only get better!

  16. thordora says:

    oh. You make me wonder how many moments my mother spent just like this, watching….

    I remember helping her though-it made me feel like such a big girl.

    You’ll come through this. And then it’s your turn to bounce.

  17. Bon says:

    Susan, my hand reaches through the ether, wishing i could pat you too, with gentleness and empathy, and just say…it’s okay. it’s okay to cry and your boys are so beautiful and kind and they will be fine, fine men.

    but my virtual hand gets close and finds a tiny, warm hand already there, comforting, learning to care for someone.

    your writing blows my mind a little more each day. you’re developing an amazing craft here, friend.

  18. Dawn says:

    you let him love you – good for you🙂

  19. Oh, my heart.

    So beautiful. Those tears, they’re a part of healing.

    What stays with me is the image of a small helping hand, a boy loving his mama.

    So, so beautiful. I’m with Bon. Your writing is just so exquisite. Thank you so much for sharing with us, and for letting us stand here with you as best we can, through this space. It’s such an honour.

  20. Bubba's Sis says:

    Now I am crying! Bless your heart, Susan. Your little one said everything you need to hear. “It’s OK, Mom. It’s OK.”

    Praying for you every day….

  21. Imstell says:

    Susan, your wonderful story says more than anything what a great job you’ve done of guiding your boys thru this difficult time in their lives. As for crying at the party, totally normal. It’s weird to feel so changed inside, see the world through such different eyes and realize that not everyone shares those same feelings or perspectives.

  22. mo-wo says:

    That presence of moment and lack of pretense in these little minds can be good medicine. As if you don’t have enough let me recommend the book ‘Your children will raise you.’

    Your blog could be a chapter, i think at times.

    http://www.shambhala.com/html/catalog/items/isbn/978-1-59030-064-0.cfm

  23. Krishawn says:

    Your baby loves you so much. His tenderness is evidence that you are doing everything right. What a wonderful man, husband and father he will be. Very touching post. Love to all of you.

  24. Jacquie says:

    You have a sweet boy there! That brought tears to my eyes WM!

    My youngest is almost 3, should we “arrange” a future marriage? I can only hope she finds someone like the man you boy is going to be.

  25. planetnomad says:

    You never cease to amaze me; how you can make me view my world differently.

  26. Susan,

    beautifully written and so normal – you have a way of taking us all into your world! This brought tears to my eyes.

  27. KillerBoob says:

    And I cried with you just a little on this post. It was so true and beautiful. Both parts. There’s nothing like your little boy (or hubby or sister or whomever dear) accepting your most vulnerable parts, in fact embracing them as an honor to behold, and wanting nothing more than to particiate and share them with you. I thought it was amazing when adults did that. What a 3 year old. I love him already.

  28. rebecca says:

    What an awesome kid!!!

  29. Alice C says:

    I think that it is possible to be brave for a very long time and look forward and be positive. And then, just when you least expect it, sometimes a long time after the time when you needed to be brave, you are caught off-guard. And all those carefully built defences are not there because you didn’t think that you needed them anymore. It can be a painful experience.

  30. whymommy says:

    Thanks, Kate, Bon, and all… it is hard to write about (and admit) this, and it’s nice to hear your comments back, especially on the hard ones….

  31. WOW!!

    I’m sitting her with tears filling up my eyes. What a wonderful family you have.

  32. Keri says:

    A beautiful post that made me cry – not out of sadness but the pure beauty and sweetness of it. What an amazing moment to capture with words! Thanks for sharing!

  33. amanda says:

    Oh Susan, you left a real mark with this post. You and your family are pure magic. I am so grateful to you and for you.

  34. Marie T says:

    you make me cry — your words are so tender — what’s even more amazing is the wonderful acts of love behind those words — the little ways every day your family stays connected. Thank you (again) for sharing with us all.

  35. Bubba's Mom says:

    What a precious little man! Having gone through exactly what you are experiencing, I know how you want to shield your children and keep their world as “normal” as possible, but they know instinctly when something is not quite right with mommy and letting them help, like you did with your little one, releases a tenderness and sweetness that will be part of him always. Boys are special in that they love their moms so much. You are blessed with your sons. I send my very best love to you – you are a strong woman and you are a survivor. Stay strong!

  36. Clayjack says:

    I have only a small sense of the emotions you described in this post – gripping every moment tightly, trying to wring out every happy moment you can because there may not be another chance to do it later. Pretty normal feelings given the circumstances.

    But so what that you’re different! In my nearly 40 years on this earth those people that have been the most interesting, most inspiring people have been those who were different. Those who had an unusual perspective that was shaped by the events and experiences of their lives. Those are the people that helped me extend horizons, re-examine priorities and affect lifelong changes.

    I think you’re already one of those people. And your two boys are so lucky to be able to call you mom.

    Here’s to continued healthy progress and finding a new, happy normal.

  37. CApoppy says:

    This is the first I’ve read of your blog, and it brought me to tears.

    My mother struggled with cancer when I was very young, and the memories I have of her are few, but incredibly valuable. One of my fondest memories was when she let me put her very thin hair in as many bows as I could. We played beauty parlor, and I was the stylist. It allowed me to touch her and know her changing body without fear. It made something that was once terribly frightening, okay, and even fun. I’m sure your son felt the same, and even though he’s very young, I’ll bet he’ll remember it fondly.

  38. sprucehillfarm says:

    Oh Susan, I am still crying after reading your post. I know how you feel. It is a hard thing to keep going day after day and not releasing the emotions that are there just under the surface. I call them my little moments. Cancer does that to you. We try for everyone to be positive and happy and to take each day as the blessed gift that it is, but sometimes it all comes crashing down. But I believe that it is a part of the process of what we are going through. I feel like it is just like grieving for a loved one. We grieve what our lives would be if we did not have cancer. Those little glimmers of what our lives would be if not for the cancer. I think this keeps us grounded and keeps us going on. We are human and it is so hard watching our children and wondering what lies ahead. You have done a wonderful job with your boys. They are strong and thoughtful and sensitive boys. They are that way because of you. Because of everything you have been through. They would not be that way if you did not have cancer. They are who they are because of you. Take comfort in that. It is a gift you might not have chosen but a gift just the same. Build on that and take each day as it comes. Live every moment. One day at a time, one moment at a time. These moments don’t have to be the most spectacular moments. They are your moments, cherish them with every breath and tear. We often don’t remember those “fun” moments of childhood but the small ones that are tucked way back in the corners of our memories. The ones like helping your Mom put cocoa butter on her scars the ones that truly touch our souls.
    Keep smiling Susan, you are an insiration to us all. We all love you!

    Sarah S.
    PS I love your hair! it loos great!

  39. She She says:

    What a gentle boy. He loves his mama.

  40. mod*mom says:

    congratulations on getting through so much treatment

    cocoa butter on 3 week old wounds?
    i didn’t think of that. i still flinch if anyone goes near.

    that’s good you’re getting help with lymph drainage. lymphedema is a pain. i do weights. it’s safe.

    my hair grew back curly for the 1st time in my life. i love it. i hope you have a great year! spring is on it’s way🙂

  41. Hello, I just want you to know, that because of YOU and your blog, you are teaching me and so many other people to cherish every day and that we should “enjoy every moment, to laugh, to play, to make this ‘party’ the best party EVER.” I am trying to live my life by the gold standard you are setting. Thank you for that!!

  42. Becki says:

    What a wonderful family you have. What a wonderful wife and mother they have. What a wonderful, mysterious life together you will all have, for a long, long, time.

  43. LawyerMama says:

    Oh, Susan, you’ve made me cry. Because life is so beautiful and we take it for granted. And because your beautiful little boy knows that too.

  44. Kim says:

    Susan, you may look a little different than the other moms (right now), but you are not really any different. You love your kids just as fiercely as they do–you are a mom, just like those other moms. You have been through so much and that will always be a part of who you are, but mostly, as far your little boys are concerned, you are “just mom.”

  45. How beautiful a picture you’ve set in my mind of the three of you working together. That really is beautiful. Thank you.

  46. b*babbler says:

    Oh, the beautiful insight of children.

    Wiser than many of us, indeed.

  47. JoC says:

    An exquisite post indeed! I had to leave it the day it was posted but came back to comment because it has stayed with me. I am so thankful for your words. It is very hard to let our children see us scarred and vulnerable and yet they know it and are comforted when they can give a hug or rub some lotion or … Thanks for reminding me how important this is and how valuble for mom + babe.

  48. Suzanne says:

    I understand how you feel different. I have IBC and still feel that way and I think I will for quite some time. It’s not always bad, I feel I have a lot of gratitude for life and my kids like you. I’m glad your son was so helpful. Thinking of you! Radiation wasn’t that bad-I just go sick of going in every day.

  49. Jana says:

    Oh my word… that is so precious!!!!

  50. allthepretties says:

    This is so beautiful. I think you are so strong, and such, such a good mommy. Widget is so lucky to have you in his little life. He is a big helper.

  51. Ally says:

    Thank you for the honesty and beauty of this post, Susan. Sometimes you are so upbeat that it’s easy to miss that you sometimes feel like this. I’m glad you had good friends that found you at the party and talked with you. The picture of your sweet little guy helping with the cocoa butter. This made me cry, big tears of joy for the beauty of your heart, and his. xoxox

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