Thursday, November 04, 2004


Week #12 of Long-Term Maintenance Therapy

When Kendrie was three years old, she was obsessed with baseball. Ob. Sessed. She carried around a ball and glove at all times and would practice “catch” with anyone she could trick into standing still for more than two minutes. And she had a rotating supply of baseball movies that were watched on a very regular basis: Angels in the Outfield, The Sandlot, and Rookie of the Year.

Then, when Kendrie turned four, she was diagnosed with leukemia. Before long, ball caps came to signify something not quite as fun as a baseball obsession. And spending all her time at home with mom, or in the van driving back and forth to Atlanta with the portable DVD player, meant those three baseball movies were watched even more. She still asks on a regular basis “How much longer until it’s my turn to play t-ball?”

So on Tuesday of this week, as we left for Atlanta at 6am, the DVD player behind me was playing “The Sandlot” for the 7,824th time. It’s really a cute movie, if you haven’t ever seen it …. and I have every single solitary line memorized at this point. So, I was able to tune it out a little while I was driving and reflect on Kendrie’s obsession with the sport and how, in a few small ways, baseball is like childhood cancer. (Yeah, you saw that one coming a mile away, didn’t you?)


1. There are nine very important members of the team: Kendrie, her parents, her siblings, her oncologist, her nurse, her nurse practitioner, her pharmacist, her child-life specialist, and the guy who makes the breadsticks at Pizza Hut.

2. The support we receive from thousands and thousands (ok, well, maybe it’s only hundreds and hundreds) of people who fill our stadium -- extended family, close-up friends, long-distance friends, and online friends -- cheers us on in an unbelievable way.

3. Some things, like a bald 4-yr old, grown men spitting, and paying $8 bucks for a beer, are just inexplicable and wrong.

4. The treatment for leukemia is like Roseanne Barr’s crotch-grabbing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner --- it was completely obnoxious and went on for way too long, but you just grit your teeth and get through it.

5. Living a life with childhood cancer is a little like playing on a prison baseball team --- the circumstances suck, but at the end of the day, you’re happy to still be out on the field.

6. Some days are pure bliss --- sunshine-on-your-face-eating-a-foot-long-and-peanuts-and-cheering-and-waving-a-big-foam-finger kind of happiness. Other days, like the days we had this past week when we lost three amazing kids: Shelby Prescott, Cheyenne Fiveash, and Connor Hunley .... you just feel like huddling in the dugout, hiding under your umbrella until the rain stops and the sun comes out again. I mean, it *has* to come out again, doesn’t it? Even for their heartbroken families?

7. Finally, you take advantage of friendships with team-mates you never expected to have. For us this past week, that meant meeting for the first time in clinic, Camp Jack, a cutie who is beating neuroblastoma. Jack has had two stem cell transplants and we’ve been following him online, so meeting him in person, completely by coincidence, was fun. Of course, his teen-age girlfriend Cali Ali is probably going to be a little jealous of the time we got to spend with him. She and Jack have a special relationship --- not in an icky, Mary Kay Letourneau kind of way, but a really fun bi-coastal friendship.

After our clinic appointment on Tuesday, we headed next door to the AFLAC Cancer Center at Scottish Rite hospital to stop in, say hi and deliver cookies to Mary Grace and her mom D.D. Mary Grace is undergoing additional chemo for a germ cell tumor on her spine that her doctors are deciding how to treat this week. Chemo; radiation; surgery; there are many options and we are praying for wisdom for her oncologists as they decide which one(s) will give Mary Grace the best opportunity for a complete cure.

And finally, two remaining team-mates we met that evening as we attended the first-ever Camp Sunshine support group meeting for cancer families in the middle-Georgia area. We got to spend more time with Jacob and his family, which was great, and also to meet for the first time another online friend, Jay and his family. We’re very hopeful this meeting was the beginning of long and helpful friendships.

My final baseball analogy involves two of our friends from Illinois who drove down to Georgia to walk with us in The Light the Night Walk last month; 14-yr old Evan and his dad, Gary. Even and Gary are both sports buffs, especially baseball, and a few years back had gone to a game in Cincinnati (I think --- we’ve been stationed at so many military bases with them, maybe I’m mixing up my cities!) Anyway, the two of them had gone to a professional baseball game and had pretty good seats. Good enough that Evan got SMACKED right in the chest by a foul ball. Not to be overly dramatic, but a foul ball hitting you in the heart at 100 mph .. well, that can kill you. It **has** killed people before. So no surprise that they brought in paramedics and stadium representatives, and made Gary sign a release of liability waiver before he was allowed to remove Evan from the stadium. (Gotta love America!)

Luckily, Evan suffered no permanent damage. And I know he still likes baseball. But I wonder if he enjoys the games as much anymore. Is he as relaxed, as happy, rooting for his team and waving his pennant around and wondering nothing more serious than why on earth his shoes are sticking to the floor of the stadium? Or is he a little bit watchful, slightly apprehensive about the next foul ball and where it might be headed and what damage it might cause?

That’s how I feel with Kendrie. Don’t get me wrong --- I’m thrilled to be at the game. But I can’t keep that constant, constant worry out of the back of my head at all times. I guess that's what makes it "constant", right?

Please let the foul balls go straight up in the air and not smack any of us in the chest again.

Take care, and have a great weekend,

Ps. For a really great journal entry, that most likely represents how a lot of parents of kids with leukemia feel, check out the Nov 1st journal entry at Katarina's site. At least I know her mom hit the nail on the head for how *I* feel some days.



I’m still not quite over the worst part of having cancer on Tuesday. Let’s see, would it be the part where the nurse held me still and jabbed a needle in my chest? Or held me still and jabbed a needle in my spine? Or the five hours in the van? Or maybe, yes, I know, I know, it’s the stinkin’ steroids that are turning me into a raving, crabby, starving, crying lunatic!!!!! (Wait, that last sentence was high-jacked by my Mom!)


Only six more months until my mom signs me up for t-ball! (Hey, I heard somebody around here talking about it!)

No comments: