Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Yin and the Yang of May

I remember reading that T.S. Eliot thought that April was the "cruelest month" and I remember thinking that whatever crap he was dealing with must have all gone down in April and that for me, forever, May would be the "cruelest month".  May 16th, 2002, Patrick was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  I was by myself with Patrick at Kaiser and Dr. Jolly (I told you May was cruel) looked me in the eye and told me that for sure Patrick had leukemia, definitively, no wiggle room.  I remember collapsing to the ground and sobbing uncontrollably.  I truly couldn't wrap my head around it.  How?  Why?  A toddler with leukemia? NO! What gave me pause wasn't the tenderness and gentleness of Dr. Jolly or the nurses it was two little hands touching my shoulder and rubbing my back.  Patrick was comforting me!  As usual.  It gets a little humbling to have a teacher patiently show you the way with the smallest of gestures with the tiniest of hands.  I stopped crying and listened. It turns out that Dr. Jolly had not given me the death sentence that I believed it to be.  Patrick's type of leukemia had a good "cure" rate and he had some good signs. Dr. Jolly believed that Patrick would be finished with treatment by the time he began kindergarten.  He would walk through the school doors cancer free. I told Dr. Jolly that he was Moses and I was going to follow him through the desert. If he knew the way out, I would stick close and hang on his every word.  The only problem: the desert would be a three plus year long journey.  We would go through valleys of darkness unlike any other.  We would walk alone.  We would be afraid.  We would wonder if there really was a way out.  We would doubt Dr. Jolly and dream of running way.

There is no way to describe a time like that in your life.  Looking back, I know I was forever afraid of the many bad things that could happen...a bad test result, a complication, a rogue virus that attacks an immuno-suppressed child, a bizarre reaction to the many, many medicines...and I lived on that edge.  When you are living with someone who is fighting for their life, all of the superfluous details of life seem unnecessary and silly.  I remember my mom asking me about Christmas gifts and just wishing I could focus on details like that.  Instead, I had to pay attention to Patrick's body temperature, his intake of fluids, his food, his meds and his many appointments.  Worry always at the core.  Learning to let go and know that you can control none of it was my constant lesson.  I tried to learn it.  I am better.  Intellectually I know the senselessness of worry and I try to talk myself off the cliff, but my heart does a good job fluttering away.

As May came around again in 2003, I would cringe as the day of Patrick's diagnosis would take its place on my mental calendar.  I would go into a funk.  The world was cloudy and gray.  May 16th was destined to be a bad day. I tried to have a better attitude in 2004.  Patrick was clearly surviving and doing well.  He was still on chemo and still on monthly appointments and still very fragile but May 16th shouldn't bring me down.  The anniversary came and went with gray and sadness lingering.  May of 2005 should have been sunny and bright.  Patrick was scheduled to have everything completed in August of 2005, just in time for kindergarten!  But, he had a set back and the desert seemed hot, dry and inescapable.  May 16th made its mark on my calendar and seemed to taunt me and jeer. It was official, May was the cruelest month.

Happily, Patrick completed all treatment in August of 2005!  We celebrated!  We counted our blessings! We held our breath.

In September of 2005, I found out I was pregnant!  At 41, I didn't believe the pregnancy would last.  I was convinced the odds were against us.  But, I went in to my first appointment with John in October and watched the ultrasound.  There was a little hand and it was waving.  I kid you not.  That little miracle was not to be denied.  We found out the due date.  I still get chills:  May 16th, 2006.

In my heart, I wanted to believe that we could love May again, but I just wasn't sure.  A lot of heartbreak had happened in May. Could it really be so full of life and love?  Could it be possible that a huge blessing awaited us in May?

Oh YES!  Welcome Baby Caroline!
Baby Caroline Claire graced us with her sunshine on May 17th, 2006.  She needed her own special day!   She has been such a blessing and a ray of hope in our family it is indescribable.  Now, when I turn the calendar, I smile.  May is not only a rockin' is sunshine, flowers, garden scents and baby smiles.  It is happiness, joy and beauty.  It is grace in the flesh!

We made it out of the desert.  Thank you Dr. Jolly.  Thank you universe.  Thank you!  Most especially, thank you sweet Caroline for gracing our lives.


  1. I have always known that Patrick survived Leukemia, but he is such a healthy, vibrant kid, it never really fully sunk in. This post shook me deeply because I paused to think for the first time about how there was a chance that I wouldn't have been able to meet Patrick. And what tremendous loss that would have been for the world.

    And oh my goodness, I feel so blessed to know sweet miracle Caroline. (I can't believe Jack, Mary Kate, and Patrick were that tiny when I first met them!)

    This post just makes me feel flooded with gratefulness. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Love and hugs to all your little blessings!

  2. Beth, this is so very touching. God has richly blessed your family and how amazing it must be to reflect on the significance of May in your lives on this, the 1st day of May! So inspiring! Wishing you a wonderful May, my favorite month of all. Love, Lynette

  3. I love reading you piece / peace. Thank you Beth! Laura Spelman