Prince Charming

April 2, 2010 at 4:16 pm (Uncategorized)

Andrew is a good kid. A smart kid. A kind kid. An adaptable kid.

But he’s my kid, so I don’t often rhapsodize about what a genius he is because he can read well above his grade level, or how unique his learning-style is because he can build Lego sets designed for 13-year olds with just a little help from Jay. All parents think their kids are brilliant. Luckily, most recognize their own bias in the matter of judging their child’s aptitude and keep their trilling to a minimum. (Of course, there are always a few parents who show up for parent-teacher events and earnestly–and loudly–ask for special accommodations for their gifted child.) So when Andrew comes home from school with anything less than a 100 percent on his papers, I don’t assume that he must be bored with the basic level of math instruction he’s getting in kindergarten. Instead, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t paying attention because his mind was wandering and he’d rather think about building the Lego Indiana Jones Temple of Doom set than count the apples on his worksheet.

I generally try to avoid bragging about my son. I don’t want to be obnoxious in front of other parents. I also don’t want to talk so loudly that I make Andrew aware that he’s reading books for third graders or doing math for fourth graders. I firmly believe that kids who hear too much of this stuff from their parents can become burdened by over-expectation. If they don’t over-achieve at every step along the way, they can feel like they’re letting their parents down. Or, he could become on of those irritating children who inform everyone who will listen how smart they are. I’ve met the grown-up version of these kids, and they give me the heebie-jeebies. Self-esteem is one thing. Blatant self-aggrandizement is quite another.

But now that I’ve delivered my two-paragraph caveat, well, on with my bragging.

On Tuesday evening, Andrew announced that since it was spring break and he didn’t have to go to school, he wanted to come with me for my entire chemo appointment at the Cancer Treatment Center the next day. “How about you come for an hour?” I suggested. “No, I want to be with you the whole time.” He was quite emphatic. I was worried that he would get bored and restless during the four or five hours it takes getting blood drawn, seeing the doctor, and then getting infused with anti-nausea medications and Cytoxan (the chemotherapy agent). Once I’m hooked up to the IV pole, I can’t wander around the hospital in an effort to entertain him. He’s gotten really bored there in the past. In the end, I agreed that he could stay through lunch, and then he would have to leave for his afternoon science class at the local children’s museum.

It didn’t occur to me until later that Andrew’s sudden interest in observing my chemotherapy wasn’t just because the CTC doles out some of the best cookies in town. I think he was worried about me and what happens to me once I slide out of his sight behind the hospital’s doors. The last round of chemo had been particularly brutal. I was throwing up a week after getting the drug, and was still wobbly by the time my next dose rolled around. After watching Andrew’s behavior with me at the CTC, I now understand that he was coming to watch over me and to protect me.

My son’s kindness towards me during our time in the CTC nearly broke me heart. Instead of insisting on a play date with his best friend, he had demanded to be by my side in this place of sickness. He sharply watched the nurses every time they touched me—as they “accessed” my chest port and drew blood, as they checked my vital signs, and as they hung my bags of liquid medicine and dripped them into me. As we waited for my lab results to come back so that I could see the doctor, Andrew drew his chair close to me. “Now I am going to read to you,” he announced. For the next forty-five minutes he read his Level Three Star Wars: Yoda In Action book that I had bought for him a couple of months ago for us to read together. Previously, he had stumbled on words like “envoy,” “command unit,” “crushed,” and “battalion.” Not this time. He needed my help on a couple words here and there, but he was proud to be reading to me—especially something so exciting.

When it was time to see the doctor, Andrew sat quietly, but attentively, as I went over some questions. But then he jumped right in to the conversation to show the doctor that my broken foot had finally healed and that I was able to get the stitches removed from where the surgeon had excised the subcutaneous granuloma. “Look at how well she’s healing,” he told the doctor. As my visit wound down, the doctor was considerate enough to ask Andrew if he had any questions. “She was very sick—too sick—last chemo,” he said. And the doctor looked like his heart might break, too. But he rallied and told Andrew that the medicine was making me well, but that it built up in my body. “Every time your Mom gets this medicine, it gets a little harder.” “I know that,” Andrew said. “Pretty soon she’ll be done with it,” the doctor said, as he closed my folder and stood to leave. “But remember how strong and brave your mom is.” Andrew patted my arm.

The rest of his visit was lovely. He fetched me cold water from the cooler to drink. He fetched other patients cold water from the cooler. He drew me pictures of swords and shields to fight sarcoidosis. After we got our lunch from the cafeteria, we shared our desserts. I gave him half my lemon tart and he gave me half his fudge brownie.

When Leah came to take him to his class, he was reluctant to leave me. But I reassured him that I was almost done. He hugged me, kissed me, and gave me a final arm pat.

I kept my tears at bay for the rest of my time in the CTC. I wasn’t sad. I was proud. My pride wasn’t because Andrew was so well-behaved, or that he was reading so terrifically. Instead, I was proud (and relieved) that the great force my illness—which has hovered over Andrew since he was a baby—hasn’t stunted him. Unfortunately, he has lost a lot because of my sarcoidosis. The mother he has is not the mother I intended to be. Too often I have been sick or incapacitated and not able to give him the time and the attention he deserves. But he has flowered amidst the rubble of my illness. I think his experience with disease has made him more compassionate and kinder.

I am so proud of my golden-haired son—who sat by his mother’s side on a sunny school holiday so that he could keep her safe, pat her arm, and watch the medicine drip.


  1. Nancy said,

    Wonderful read and a lesson in enjoying what is You may not be the Mother that ” You” wanted to be but you are the Mother you are suppose to be for Andrew. You are what he needs right now. A wonderful moment. Nan

  2. Barb said,

    Once again, I heart Nancy.
    And Andrew.
    And You.
    And Jay.
    Wonderful and so totally Andrew, his own blend of you and Jay and himSelf.

  3. Roz Heafitz said,

    Thank you for sharing so eloquently; Andrew is learning compassion and graciousness as a profound life lesson and that is so much more rich than work sheets and even playdates with friends.


  4. Rayna said,

    Such a heartfelt entry. I’m so proud of you and my nephew!

  5. Sandra Ahten said,

    Really makes me want to
    meet him. He sounds so precious.

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