It’s kind of hard for me to pin down an “anniversary” day for Eva’s leukemia. Is it the day she went to the hospital? The day they first warned us what they thought it was? Or the day she was officially diagnosed?
For me it’s about remembering different phases of the whole month. I want to write more about those experiences now that a year has passed. I want to remember them so I can regain the benefits of those days.
For Audra it was really about November 10, 2016. So I’m sharing something really nice that she wrote and posted to Facebook yesterday.
It’s November 10th. A day full of memories. It’s an anniversary of a different sort. Not the kind you celebrate with a babysitter for your kids and a glorious date night. But also not the kind where you clear your calendar and curl up on the bathroom floor sobbing. I don’t know how to honor this day. Celebrate it? Ignore it? Carry on with a nod to it, affirming it’s here? That it came? That it passed? That life continues? I really am not sure what’s best. Truth be told we are flying by the seat of our pants on this journey.
And so I write. Because my heart is full and I don’t know what I am supposed to do about this day. However, I can tell you just about every detail of what my day looked like one year ago – on November 10, 2016.
Eva and I had spent the night before at Rady’s for the first time together. I remember waking up and thinking about the last time we had spent the night together in a hospital room — the day she was born. I remember thinking how the two visits were so different.
I remember we had a shared room that first night on the third floor at Rady’s. Her roommate was a girl who had an emergency appendectomy. I remember the girl’s mother asking me around 8:30AM how Eva was doing and what was wrong with her. I remember having an uneasy feeling in my stomach when I smiled politely told her we still didn’t know.
I remember how morning rounds were at 9:22 that Thursday morning. I remember looking at the clock and inwardly giggling and feeling like Grey’s Anatomy when a team of doctors, residents, fellows and an attending came and crowded around Eva’s bed. I remember being embarrassed because I had slept in my clothes. I hadn’t showered or even brushed my teeth. I hadn’t even gotten to take my contacts out. Because we weren’t supposed to be there. It wasn’t supposed to be an overnight stay.
I remember that there were 9 of them – her medical team that morning. I remember counting. They told me that they really couldn’t say what was wrong with Eva. They knew that her leg hurting was not a bone infection. The day before they had done an ultrasound. A CT. An MRI. A massive panel of labs. All showed no bone infection. They told me they it was mysterious. They thought it was just a strange response to an infection her body was still fighting off from a fever she had had in late October. They told us they were discharging us and we were going home before lunch.
I remember how Caleb came with the other kids around 9:45. I remember how crazy it was in that tiny room with so many people – but how it also felt like a fun little memory. Home before we knew it. I remember a sweet friend send balloons and a little craft from the gift store. I remember taking the twins on walks to get them out of the room so it wasn’t crazy for Eva’s roommate.
I remember coming back from one of the walks and turning into Eva’s room. I saw Eva’s doctor and the resident that had been assigned to her case. They were at the nurses station right by our room. I overheard them say “That’s mom” as they looked in my direction. And I knew they were talking about me because I was the only one in the hall. I remember how the night before I had asked the resident if they had ruled out everything ‘scary’. Like cancer. I remember how the night before she told me they had.
I remember that at 11:07 that same doctor, her fellow and the resident came into our room. They brought with them a volunteer who they said would watch all of our kids for us while they talked to us about taking Eva home. As we walked to one of the sitting rooms, another lady joined us. The 3 of them were chatting with us – just chit chat. Normal. The room overlooked the playground at Rady’s. Caleb and I were seated so we could face out – look at the view of the city. You can see airplanes landing. Cars. There are multiple freeways that converge near Rady’s – it’s a busy area. But beautiful. The tops of the eucalyptus trees – and everyone is moving. Life is bustling around you as you look out those windows. I remember what I was wearing.
I remember glancing as the clock as they closed the door. It was 11:10 when the doctor started talking and she told us they thought Eva had leukemia. That she had blasts in 76% of her bloodwork. That while they couldn’t be certain medically speaking until after they had done a bone marrow draw – that they were going to request that bone marrow draw to verify what the were pretty certain of. And that they wanted to schedule to have a port placed in Eva’s chest. The other lady that wasn’t a doctor was a social worker. I now know if a social worker ever joins you in a meeting with a doctor… it’s going to be hard.
I remember it being a fairly quick meeting. I remember them being kind. I remember holding Caleb’s hand. I remember crying, but not sobbing. I remember thinking that these rooms should really have legit Kleenex and not scratchy hospital tissues. That they should really splurge for those private rooms that they reserve for the worst news. I remember them leaving and telling us to take our time. I remember sobbing then. I remember what we did when they left. What we said. I remember the world outside that window – below us still moving. I remember us understanding that our news wasn’t certain, but I remember it already being certain for us. We knew. I remember us needing to still take care of our 3 healthy kids who were going to need lunch and their parents in about 5 minutes.
I remember them moving Eva immediately to her own room. Still on the third floor (not the oncology floor). But her own room since in their eyes she was already an oncology patient who needed no germs. I remember calling a friend and asking her to watch the twins for the rest of the day. I remember meeting Eva’s oncologist that afternoon. I remember making a plan of how we were going to tell family. Friends. How we were going to tell Lily. And how we were going to going to tell Eva. When. I remember when it was my turn to call my parents. My friends. I remember instructing every nurse. Every doctor. To not say cancer. Or leukemia. Because we hadn’t told Eva yet why she was not going home.
I remember all of the details that make up this day. And I can tell you that this year as October has waned and faded into November, my heart has been a mix of heavy and joyful. The oddest mix. An anniversary I both want to celebrate and can’t bring myself to. Why would you celebrate the hardest day of your life? But then again, why wouldn’t you? We are here. We are one year on the flip side. I did not see us here last year at this time. But yet I knew we would be here.
I wasn’t really sure what to do about today when I woke up this morning. I knew thinking of November 10, 2016 would be painful yet wonderful. That acknowledging those memories would bring healing in their own way. That seeing it all written out staring me in my face would also be therapeutic. Getting my feelings off of my heart. Putting words to the emotions. Reflecting. Reliving. Crying. Praying. Moving forward.
And so I wrote today. I see you November 10, 2016. I acknowledge what you were and what you mean. And November 10, 2017? You are completely normal. You are getting donuts + hot chocolate and watching planes together on a Friday morning before a morning full of normal-we-aren’t-in-the-hospital-errands. And planning a fancier than normal family dinner tonight. Because we can.
November 10th. It’s been 365 days. A full year. A year full of grace. A year of being on the flip side. ￼