“You are the beat of my heart, the pulse in my veins, and the energy in my soul. You are my daughter.” unknown
I have been in bed for the past 3 days with this flu that is going around. I have lost my voice and been doing nebulizer treatments every 3 hours to make sure this cold, that has settled in my chest, doesn’t turn into pneumonia. I have been miserable and not up for anything other than rest and sleep. Sounds pretty normal to anyone who has ever had the flu. Unfortunately through the eyes of a child watching her mom battle cancer and have the flu it looks a lot worse.
Last night I really understood the fears Mackenzie has about my diagnosis. If a heart can truly break mine broke last night listening to my daughter talk about her feelings and fears of this disease and the future of my health and this world. Most people won’t understand the depth of fear and what we as a family struggle with on a daily basis. But Im going to try to explain what behind closed doors looked like.
Yesterday morning after a night of coughing and tossing a turning I finally got up about 4:30 am and did my nebulizer and was able to fall back to sleep. When I looked at the clock it said 9:30am, I was shocked I had slept that long. Quickly getting up I walked into Mackenzie’s room who was already doing her school work and had this worried look on her face. When I asked what was wrong she replied, “I was worried about you. I checked on you a couple times to make sure you were ok.” With a smile, I kissed her head and told her it was just the flu and I would be fine.
As the day progressed Mackenzie seemed more and more stressed with her school work and the tasks she had to accomplish. After a day of wondering why she looked so miserable and just not her carefree self Dave and I sat down with her for what turned into a conversation that will haunt me for a while.
After some prying Mackenzie broke down and made us very aware of how her 12 year old mind see’s the world and our life. She spoke about the pressure she feels to do well in school with her disability. How her dyslexia plays a major roll in her self esteem and how she feels the need to take on all these feelings herself. She spoke about the pressure she puts on herself at dance to hide her dyslexia and how she easily becomes overwhelmed with the many working parts of ballet. Mackenzie then spoke about how she is fearful of disappointing not only us but her teachers in both school and ballet. She tearfully explained that my illness makes her worry about me all the time. How she checked on me 4 times that morning to make sure I was breathing.
After a tearful Mackenzie spoke with such passion and anguish I sat in utter shock that this beautiful soul had so many doubts about herself, her abilities and my health. She questions if I will wake up in the morning because I have the flu and I’ve been in bed for a few days? I was in tears and quickly pulled her into my lap and told her, lets cry together. I held my beautiful daughter close to my heart just like I had the day she was put on my chest for the first time. Every fear I ever had about being a great mom was coming to life. We sat in silence for a couple of minutes before I could speak. How could this beautiful and amazing girl believe she was any less for having dyslexia? How could she believe that the flu would take my life? How could I have let things get this bad before fixing this? Mountain of guilt and shock party of one!
I barely got out the words, “I’m so sorry” before Mackenzie silenced me to tell me she doesn’t blame us for any of this. She doesn’t blame anyone for how she feels. I sat in tears willing the all mighty gods to give me the strength to fix all of it for her. It took me a few minutes to pull it together to go full on mom mode and point by point we addressed all of her worries.
We spoke about getting her a tutor that would be able to help with her dyslexia. We spoke about the pressure she puts on herself is not healthy for her body or her mind. We spoke about all her amazing qualities and why she is such a fighter. We then spoke about the flu and Cancer. We told her that having the flu while being on chemo makes it harder for me to heal quickly and that rest is what I needed to get better. We also spoke about disappointment and that she could never in a million years disappoint us or her teachers. I told Mackenzie about the many conversations I have had with her teachers in both school and dance and they all say the same thing about her being the hardest worker they have ever had. As I was speaking I could see Mackenzie’s shoulders drop and the look of anxiety on her face start to disappear. I was finally seeing my Mackenzie return.
When we were close to finishing up our conversation I asked Mackenzie why she hadn’t brought this up before? She quietly said, “Because I don’t want you to worry, I want you to get better.” My heart will never recuperate from that moment. This disease has changed our life. Whether directly or indirectly Cancer is the driving force of fear in this household.
Makenzie has always been wise beyond her years but this conversation put our life into perspective. I will never take for granted that my daughter, as strong as she is, questions her strengths. As her parents we assume Mackenzie knows how deep our love for her is. We assume she understands she is the greatest gift we ever received. We assume she knows there is nothing better to see than her smile or to hear her laugh. Unfortunately when things are left unsaid it leads to endless insecurities and doubts. I told Mackenzie I wish she could see herself through our eyes. Her kindness, compassion, beauty inside and out. Only then would she understand how special she really is.
Within the hour of our conversation we all took away the one thing that really mattered. We are a family. Family is defined by commitment and by love. It means never giving up on each other or ourselves. So this is us. We are far from perfect but we have each other which means we have everything.
“Parenthood, the scariest hood you will ever go through.”- unknown
All my love to you my Fabulous Fighters,