8am on a promising Saturday morning. The kids and I fix breakfast and debate the latest in animated movies with our mouths half-full of homemade waffles. Nettie sleeps in. I peak in on her. The sheets are pulled to her chin, her head burrowed into the pillow. The kids head off to their respective rooms while I open the patio doors in our family room to welcome the warm morning air. Joni Mitchell incants “Rainy Night House” over the sound system. I am at peace. It’s like a dream.
Thirty days of mellow, that’s what we’ve found. My travel schedule came to an abrupt end when our family returned from Maui and I have jealously protected my opportunity to be home. I’ve been cooking (expanding my waist-line), spending time with the kids (brokering peace accords) and savoring life with my wife (doting on a beautiful woman and loving friend who still makes me giddy).
And the family has been holding its breath. We’re not ready to gasp for air … but we’re definitely nervous to exhale. Jordan has returned to health. She has made so much progress in her battle against cancer that the doctors have rewarded her with a reduced chemotherapy schedule. Instead of every week, she now goes four weeks on and four weeks off. She’s made such progress in her ability to walk that she now reports to physical therapy only once a week. Her last MRI showed that her condition is stable, and there is the slightest hint that the tumor may have reduced in size. She is proud, and we are proud of her.
Fifteen days. She’ll be eight years old in fifteen days. I find it so hard to believe that my little girl will be eight. And I am apprehensive. It was on her seventh birthday last year that she was unexpectedly admitted to CHLA due to complications from tumor growth. I don’t think I’ll ever wipe that day from my memory, though I wish I could – she looked so small on the emergency room bed, screaming and fighting her broken body. She pleaded with me in agony to take her out of the hospital and “get me out of this place, daddy!” I remember having to leave the room to sob in the lobby and curse God for what He was doing to my beautiful child.
I wish I could say that it felt long ago, but it doesn’t. And perhaps that’s as it should be. We are filled with hope, but we sleep less sound. We are hardened in a sense to avoid letting cancer sucker punch us when we least expect it. We’ve learned to enjoy days like this morning.
So, we hold our breath. Fifteen days until another milestone. Eight years of joy from a child with verve and charm, strength and beauty, wisdom and tenacity. Thirty days of wellness and mellow for a family that sticks together remarkably well. Three years of a journey never planned, but revealing the best of those around us – how delicious, inspiring and fragile life can be.
May it continue on.