Ian recently had an MRI that came back clear, thankfully, but it was because of my fears that he had one last week instead of next month.
Two nights in a row Ian complained of a headache and nausea at bedtime. Then, while riding his bike, Ian’s body somehow shot forward, throwing him to the sidewalk. There were no bumps on his path; he wasn’t trying to stop. Ian was confused about why he fell, crying from his scraped knee, and angry at his “stupid bike.” Add to that a series of issues at school that culminated in an office referral, and I freaked out. I called his oncologist; they wanted to see him immediately.
Dr. Cook did a neurological exam and was relieved that Ian’s eyes were of normal shape (pressure in his brain would have changed the shape of his eyes). He ordered the MRI just to be sure, but he was convinced that Ian was fine. I felt better but was not convinced.
I believe in the power of positive thinking, in the power of prayer. I know staying positive contributed to Ian’s Cancer-free status, yet I fear every headache; I cringe when he says he’s nauseated; I think the worst when he falls off his bike for no reason.
I’m crying now, thinking about my fears for my son. Why can’t I let it go? Will I always have these fears? I rejoice in the mother I’ve become because of the trauma we’ve endured, coming out stronger for it. But would I rejoice if the Cancer came back, potentially giving us more opportunities to grow stronger? No way.
If I truly want to share my vision of optimistic realism, then I need to tame my fears. I have no idea how to do that. At the end of kindergarten last year, Ian got a referral for hitting a boy—it didn’t matter that they were playing, or that Ian blocked all the punches the other boy threw at him first. During the meeting with his teacher and principal, I mentioned Ian’s brain tumor. Before I could explain that changes in behavior could indicate that the tumor was growing back, his teacher said, “Ian is well, now. You have to get over it.” I wanted to jump across the table and slap her. But now, a year later, I know she was right. I just don’t know how to do it.
The truth is I don’t think I will ever be able to look at Ian’s growing pains as normal. I will always have to quell my fears that his behavior could mean a tumor is growing. A headache will never just be a headache. That is what Cancer has taken from me: I can’t look at my son as a normal, healthy boy ever again. As painful as it is to live with this fear, I will live with it, because it means that Ian is alive and in my life. I would not trade that for anything.