Healthy Choices: Essential Oils

I’m happy to announce that I have joined doTERRA Essential Oils as a wellness advocate.

I was introduced to doTerra by a friend who has been using essential oils for years now. In the past she has given me oils for stress/anxiety, stomach aches, fever and body aches, and they have worked every time. At first, I thought it was coincidence, honestly, but the more research I did on essential oils, the more sense it made. People have been using essential oils for food preparation and health-care since the beginning of time.

In fact, many of the products we purchase in stores now are just synthetic versions of these natural oils. I truly believe that many of those synthetic, chemical products have created a health crisis in our society. Most of you know all too well about my son’s rare, cancerous brain tumor. Could his cancer, as well as so many other health problems around the world, been caused by these foreign chemicals that surround us?

In response to this belief, I have eliminated as many chemical products as possible over the last six months, and it has improved both our lives significantly. We are eating healthier, cleaning healthier, and allowing our bodies to heal with natural products instead of chemically created medicines. Not only do we clean with and ingest these oils, Ian and I also use a diffuser with essential oils for sore throats, congestion, and insomnia, and we wake up feeling healthy and rested.

img_2201A few products that I’ve been using on a daily basis for the last three months are lemon and peppermint oils. I have used other oils for specific reasons, but these two I take daily in my water and the effects are amazing. Every morning I mix about 5-6 drops of lemon oil and 2-3 drops of peppermint oil (too much peppermint can be overpowering) in a 2-quart container of regular tap water. I drink this water throughout the day. At first, I just liked the taste. It was a cool, refreshing drink without sugar or chemical additives. It helped me to fulfill the daily water requirement experts say our bodies need to stay healthy and hydrated. That in itself was a win for me.

As time went on, I started to notice that my desire for alcohol started to wane. I used to crave (for a lack of a better word) a glass of wine or a bottle of beer at the end of the day to help me unwind, but that craving stopped. Interestingly enough, I celebrated my 52nd birthday in October and was drinking, but it actually felt like I couldn’t overdo it. I was aware how much I was drinking because I was worried about the hangover I was sure to have because the older I get the worse those hangovers have become (like an all-day-long hangover). On my birthday, everyone was buying me drinks, but I didn’t feel drunk, while those around me were pretty intoxicated. The next morning, I wasn’t hungover at all. If anything, I was just tired from the late night. I thought that was pretty weird, but didn’t think much about it until I became a doTerra wellness advocate and started learning more about these two oils that I was using on a daily basis.

First, Lemon Essential Oil cleanses my liver and kidneys, and Lemon and Peppermint oils are known for their digestive benefits. I now know why I didn’t get a hangover. My liver and kidneys are functioning so well that my body just removed the toxins immediately. Because of the digestive benefits of both oils, I didn’t feel nauseated either. I no longer “crave” alcohol because these oils also have emotional benefits. Lemon oil helps with clarity, inspiration, and confidence. Peppermint oil opens the heart to joy and happiness, settles anxious feelings, and dissolves fears. I don’t need to “escape” from my day, which is why I craved alcohol.

If these things aren’t enough, here are a few other ways I have seen a difference in my life:

I started menopause in June, and I was struggling with intense hot flashes, especially in the middle of the night, which affected my sleep. During the day, I would go from a hot flash to chills, usually while teaching. I would lose my concentration and often forget what I was saying. After I started using the oils, besides putting the two oils in my water, I also created a body spray with lemon, peppermint, and lavender oils. My hot flashes stopped.

Whenever I have an upset stomach, I crush a DoTerra Peppermint Bead (a drop of oil in a beadlet) in my mouth, and the stomach ache stops immediately, almost like a Pepto-Bismol, but without the chalky taste and harmful chemicals. I also crush a peppermint beadlet after I eat at work to counteract any bad breath from the meal. It’s better than chewing gum, especially since I’m a teacher and shouldn’t talk while I’m chewing.

Ian is going through that painful growth spurt where his knee joint swells. It’s a common ailment for children between 10 and 15, and the only cure is time, but I have been putting Deep Blue oil-blend rub on his knee, and it instantly lessens his pain.

The other day, Ian was coughing and his chest sounded congested. A few days before he had spent the day with his sister who had a cough and congestion. I thought he must have picked up her cold. I gave Ian the bottle of On Guard oil blend, just to inhale the scent, and he stopped coughing and didn’t get sick.

I am looking forward to discovering the other benefits. I will keep you posted on my experiences with essential oils. Let me know if you’d like more information or would like to try any of the oils. I’ll be happy to assist you!

Here is my page on doTerra if you’d like to look at some of the products and the information on the company: https://www.mydoterra.com/paulinehawkins/#/

YouTube, Armor, and Winning the War

Me and IanAs some of you know, Ian has a YouTube channel (link). He’s been making and uploading videos since he was 7 years old. I have been monitoring his site. I get an email whenever someone comments on his videos, and then I delete and report anyone who makes a nasty comment. He’s been called names like retard, idiot, and fat. Up until now, I have protected him from the harshness of social media, waiting until I felt he was old enough and strong enough to deal with it on his own. However, I didn’t sit idle, expecting Ian to develop armor without help; so while I’ve been deleting comments, I’ve also been “training” him for these realities. Elementary school is the perfect time to build up the necessary armor. What used to be a middle school battleground has now filtered down to the younger years. Ian has had many opportunities to practice what I preach. It may seem unfortunate that someone so young would have to deal with children and adults attacking his intelligence, integrity, motivation, and character, but I’ve come to realize that it’s a blessing to be present and involved in these battles. Is there a better way to train him and strengthen his armor than while he’s in my presence, surrounded by my love and guidance?

So, when a child tells him, “I hate you!” Ian and I talk about what happened before that comment. Did Ian do something to that child? If so, we talk about making better choices and apologizing for his behavior if necessary. If not, we talk about the fact that we don’t know what’s going on with that other child. Maybe he has some difficult situations he’s dealing with, and the best course of action is not to retaliate and just walk away.

If someone says, “You’re stupid or weird,” I explain to Ian that those types of comments say more about the other person than they do about him. If Ian is just being himself and other children think he’s being weird, Ian doesn’t have to change to please other people. He can tone it down, if he wants, but Ian is allowed to have his own personality and be his own person, as long as he is being kind and not hurting anyone.

I constantly repeat this mantra to him: “You don’t have to be friends with everyone, but you do need to be kind to everyone. You can’t change how someone else behaves or feels, but you can change how you react and whether or not you let someone else control how you feel about yourself.”

That all sounds cut and dried, but situations aren’t always that simple. Yes, I teach my son to be kind, but I also teach him to stand up for himself and for others who are weaker than he is. We had one situation in which a girl his age got so angry with Ian’s goofy personality because he was “annoying” her, that she dug her nails into his shoulder to get him to stop repeating his “Chuck Norris” phrase. Ian knocked her arm away. Even though Ian had claw marks on his shoulder, she ran home accusing Ian of hitting her, which started a small group of children, along with this girl’s parents, calling Ian a bully—of course they only heard the story from the girl. No one present at the incident believed Ian was a bully, but there is nothing we can do to change how those other people feel.

In another situation, Ian defended a friend against a much bigger person. Ian stood on tiptoes to get in a high school boy’s face about something this boy did to one of his friends. Luckily, this older boy called him “little man” and appreciated Ian’s loyalty to his friend, resolving the situation immediately. Ian and I did talk about choosing his battles wisely though.

Usually, I let Ian take care of these situations on his own and give him advice when he asks or I see he really needs it. However, there have been times I’ve had to step in, like when two mothers ganged up on Ian and accused him of “bullying” their daughters and being a “liar” … about everything, I guess. I know Ian is not perfect; I need to discipline him for some of his choices, but the things they accused Ian of did not happen, and Ian had a number of other students who witnessed the situation and came to his defense. He was eventually vindicated, but there are a few people around him who still believe the lie.

As you can see, we have had many opportunities to practice these lessons over the last few years, which has helped Ian to develop a pretty tough armor. He’s strong and confident, and mostly immune to the nastiness around him.

The other day, someone made a mean comment on one of his parcour videos from a few years back. Ian made that video before he really knew what parcour was. This person decide to say, “You suck” on his video. Now that Ian has his own iPad, he received the notification of the comment as well. We both looked at our devices at the same time. Ian told me, “Apparently, I suck.”

“Don’t worry, bud. I’ll report it.” My heart hurt a little for him; I knew there would be more of that down the road, especially with his older videos, so I suggested, “You know, if you want, we can delete some of the older videos you have on your channel. You’ve grown so much that those videos aren’t really a reflection of who you are now.” I fully expected him to say, “Yeah. Let’s do that.”

Instead, Ian said, “No. Let’s leave them, Mom. We can just report the people who say mean things. That person’s words didn’t hurt me. Besides, how else are people going to see how much I’ve improved as a director, if they can’t see how I started?”

My mouth hung open for a little while. If I taught him that, why was I so shocked by his answer? Maybe the answer is that I just gave him the necessary tools so that he could fashion his own armor, according to the situation.

We all want to protect our children from pain, but pain is a requisite for life. Protecting my son isn’t about keeping him out of the battle; it’s about helping him develop the armor he will need to win the inevitable wars.

Relay for Life: A Survivor’s Story

It’s been five years since Ian was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor: Primary Adenocarcinoma of the Brain. It was rare, one in a hundred million; the tumor had sprouted tentacles, and we didn’t know for sure if we had found it before it had spread; there was no protocol for treatment; there was no guarantee that Ian would see his fifth birthday.

Cancer became a swear word in our house; we wouldn’t–couldn’t say the word in Ian’s presence. We knew his survival depended on us staying positive. And there was nothing positive about cancer, so we worked hard at keeping the word and the devastation of the disease away from Ian.

After an aggressive treatment plan of six weeks of radiation and six months of chemotherapy, Ian defied the odds. There was no cancer anywhere in his body. Not only that, but he was not in a wheel chair as predicted. He was physically, mentally, and emotionally strong. And there is no sign of the cancer returning. We say Ian is cancer-free, not in remission, because “remission” denotes that it could come back.

We have been so thankful for the medical advances that cured Ian. We are thankful for the people who supported us emotionally and financially. As the years have passed, Ian has a little better understanding of the dangers of cancer, and what he actually went through, but we still don’t talk about it very often.

That could be why we had never gone to a Relay for Life event in the past. This was our first year. I wanted to go to support my friend Berni’s team at the event; I thought Ian and I were ready to pay it forward.

I wasn’t prepared for the emotions that arrived when I did. I wasn’t prepared for Ian’s emotions and hesitancy.

As we walked up to the registration table, I was reminded of all the things I wanted to forget. The word I protected my son from for all these years was proudly displayed on banners and t-shirts and wrist bands. We saw people in various stages of their battles: some hairless, some with a range in hair lengths; some fragile, some vibrant; and some still fighting for their lives. I had an intense desire to take Ian’s hand and run in the opposite direction: I didn’t want Ian to see this. Cancer was no longer our reality; we had put Ian’s fight behind us, or so I thought. I didn’t want to remember our battle, yet it grabbed me by the throat and held me hostage.

I tried to hide my pain, while reminding myself that I promised Berni I would be there. I couldn’t turn back now. Ian, however, wasn’t holding back his feelings. He wanted to leave as soon as we got there. I reminded him of the bouncy house and other games he would play. I convinced him to stay, but I started to doubt that decision. Did it do more harm than good for Ian to be there? IMG_0581

When we got to the tent, Berni gave Ian his purple survivor’s shirt. It had “Finish the Fight 2014” on the front, and “I am strength. I am hope. I am a survivor. Walk with us to finish the fight.” on the back.

Ian didn’t want to wear it; it was too big; he was uncomfortable. Was it because, like me, he didn’t like the word “survivor”?

Shortly after we arrived, we went to the “Survivors Lunch.” The organizers gave Ian a cup and a pin; they gave me a survivor’s “Caregiver” sash. We sat in a sea of purple shirts and sashes–but all the survivors were adults. As Ian and I walked by, I heard the comments: “That little guy is a survivor? How terrible that he had to have this disease.” The grip on my throat became tighter. So many people have battled this disease. So many people are fighting for their lives for the second or third time. And they felt sorry for Ian. IMG_0583

Ian was also uncomfortable with the attention he was getting for something he could barely remember–and what he did remember was painful: being bald, vomiting, needles, waking up from anesthesia–and me crying. He hates when I cry, and any talk of his cancer makes my tears flow. Within minutes of our first conversation with a survivor, the tears were choking me. But that wasn’t the worst part. What had me in a vice grip was that Ian heard that “it” sometimes comes back; my fears for my son were spoken realities in these people’s lives. I looked for an escape route.

I felt like we didn’t belong there. We were years away from that traumatic time in our lives. What good did it do to bring it to the surface again?

After lunch, we walked around the track and looked at each of the booths. As I saw the number of people who donated their time and resources to raise money to fight this disease, my perspective began to change. I was able to step away from my personal pain and see that everyone there had similar pain. They, however, released their pain, so they could help put an end to this disease, while I had been harboring mine. I had been protecting Ian for so long, that I didn’t realize that I was protecting myself as well. IMG_0650[1]

One of our favorite booths was where a young girl (she couldn’t be more than twelve) was donating her time and talents as an anime artist to raise money for cancer research. Just the other day Ian said to me: “I want an artist to draw me, Mom. Can we do that someday?” And there she was. She took a picture of Ian and turned him into an anime super hero. It’s by far the best item we got from the booths.

Ian also loved playing games. His favorite was the “dunking game.” He threw a softball at a target at least 15 times and dunked the various participants at least ten times.

Then it was time for the “Survivor’s Walk.” Ian and I joined the survivors and walked around the track. The survivors had purple balloons that they released after one lap; it was meant to be symbolic for the survivors, but it helped me release my hold on Ian’s story.

I watched as Berni’s team walked their lap. My appreciation for her and what she has done for years for this fight grew with every step.

IMG_0637 At nine, they had the Luminaries Ceremony: People decorated white bags in remembrance of loved ones who had lost their battle with cancer; Berni had two bags. They ended the ceremony with a bagpipe rendition of Amazing Grace.

As we silently let the music pour over us, I remembered the words that helped me stay strong five years ago:

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Chorus:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

I cried through the song, knowing that these words were still ringing true for me: I still need grace, and I still need to open my eyes to the things I’ve been blind to.

For the rest of the night, Ian joined an impromptu soccer game on the field. He was having so much fun.

Watching Ian run and play made me realize that we both needed to be there. Ian embraced his past–a past I tried to sugar coat for him because I didn’t want fear to interfere with his healing. I wanted him to envision his future so he could live through the pain and work towards that day when he could run and play again–like he did last night. He played so hard he could barely walk afterwards.

The future we envisioned for him in the midst of his battle is his reality today.

Relay for Life is raising money so other people can have a future like Ian’s present.

Protecting Ian was necessary five years ago, but now I will envision that we are warriors helping others “Finish the Fight.” Ian is a symbol of hope for all the people currently struggling–he had a devastating diagnosis, but Ian beat the odds. We want others to have that same hope.

A letter to my son on his ninth birthday

Dear Ian,

Happy birthday my darling boy! Your birth nine years ago brought so much joy to my life. You were an answer to prayer then as you are now.

We’ve been through so much together and have come out stronger and better because of it. You have taught me so much about life and love. I’m grateful beyond measure for every second of your life.

Before you were born, I thought there was going to be a huge difference between raising boys and girls, but the essential things are the same. Just like girls, boys are sweet and kind; they want love and understanding; and they want to know that their mommies love them no matter what.

The biggest difference between boys and girls, however, comes from the expectations society has of boys. You will have so much pressure put on you from outside sources to be their definition of a “real man.” As your mom, I’ve had to figure out what that means, so I can help prepare you for the world outside my protective embrace. I read a few books about raising boys, but most of my research came from the images displayed through the media and observing the boys, teenagers, and men around me.

What I’ve discovered is that our culture will tell you that a “real man” has to be strong no matter what; he has to be ready to fight at a moment’s notice; he has to value street-smarts over book-smarts; he must dominate whenever he can; he must have a lot of women; he must make a lot of money to provide an extravagant lifestyle for his family; and he must sacrifice his family relationships in order to provide that extravagant lifestyle. Add to that the list of don’ts: Don’t be a fool; don’t act like a girl; don’t feel any emotion too strongly; don’t cry…

I know I only have a few years left before you start noticing all of this too. It makes me sad. It seems that men are under pressure to fulfill a role that leads to pain and loneliness. I don’t want that for you. I want you to be a man who is confident to express all of his emotions. I want you to find and pursue your purpose in life, whatever that may be. I want you to be a man who is happy and loves deeply; a man who is kind and respectful to everyone, but not afraid to take a stand against the evils in the world.

With that in mind, my birthday gift to you is that I promise to continue to raise you with these goals in mind.

I promise to help you understand your emotions, so you can feel them all and not let them turn into anger because you don’t know what else to do with them. You can cry when you’re sad, laugh when you’re happy, yell when you’re angry, confront your fears when you’re scared, love completely and unconditionally, and embrace your dreams without fear…so that you can become a confident man who knows what he thinks, feels, and wants in his life, and so you can embrace the beauty all around you.

I promise to teach you the value of money, so you don’t confuse money with happiness. We all need money to survive in this world, but we need love and family more. If you remember that, you will never make bad choices that will threaten your happiness for the sake of money. I will teach you the value of hard work, so you can experience the joy of a job well done, regardless of the money involved.

I promise to teach you what kindness and respect look like, so that you willingly give it to those around you and will accept nothing less from the people in your life. Unfortunately, I know that kindness and respect will only go so far; there will be times when you will need to take a stand for what is right or make the decision to walk away. I promise to teach you the moments worth fighting for.

I promise to help you find courage through the times you are the most scared; to teach you to pick yourself up and brush yourself off, no matter how many times you fall; and to never give up on your dreams no matter what anyone says to you.

Finally, I promise to teach you to have integrity in all situations. The old adage, “a man is only as good as his word” is more true now than ever before: What you say and what you do must always be the same thing. It will be hard to stand by this, especially when most everyone around you won’t abide by this rule, but you can’t live a fulfilled life without integrity. There may be times when you think telling a lie will be easier; but you need to resist that urge, for the hardest truth is always better than the best lie. You may get in trouble, but not as much as you will if you lie about who you are. When you are truthful, no matter what, people will learn to trust your word.

I know those are some pretty big promises, but I will work every day to fulfill them, buddy, because you are worth it.

Close upHappy birthday, my darling boy. And always remember, I love you more.

My MRI by Ian Hawkins

With a little help from Mom.

I have an MRI today. I’m going to take you through my MRI.

Last night I was upset about getting another MRI. I asked my mom if other kids have to get MRIs all the time like me. She said no. At least I only have to go once a year now, not every day like when I had radiation treatments, or every three months for checkups. I hate going because I can’t eat or drink anything when I wake up in the morning. Then I have to wait a long time after I get to the hospital.

I’m in the waiting room now. I wait for three minutes. Then we go to registration. Then we go back to the radiology area.

BeforeThe nurse asks me a lot of questions and takes my temperature and blood pressure. I brought Peaches and Peanut with me today to keep me company.

The doctor just told me the gas is going to smell like bubblegum. I guess that won’t be too bad. I used to get sick when they used the gas mask, but now I’m ok with it. It’s better than feeling the needle in my arm.

I wonder what I’ll dream about today.

One time, in the doughnut machine room, Mom’s earrings got pulled by the magnet in the machine. I wonder if it will happen again.

We walk to the room and I lie down on the bed that goes through the doughnut hole.

They put a gross, squishy thing on my chest to monitor my heart. I hate that thing.

Mom’s earrings did not get pulled this time. Darn. That’s pretty funny when it happens.

When I start breathing in the gas, I feel like I am floating. I feel myself smiling. And then nothing.

AfterWhen I wake up, my mom and dad aren’t in the room. That upset me. (It upset Mom, too. She got mad at the nurse for not getting her right away, and she told the nurse so.) I start crying because I am sad. I missed my parents, and my hand hurts where the IV is. I hate that thing. I want it out of my hand now, but they can’t take it out until they know I’m ok. I can only take sips of water until I’m sure my stomach is ok.

I didn’t dream this time, at least I don’t remember if I did.

I’m starting to feel better now. I’m hungry and can’t wait to eat.

When the nurse comes with the wheelchair, I feel a little dizzy. Mom has to help me into the chair. Mom grabs a blue throw up bag before we leave the hospital. Good thing because I throw up as soon as I get in the car. I hate throwing up.

I just ate, and I feel better now.

That’s the end of my MRI story.

How Heroes Are Made

Last night, Ian told me he’s getting picked on by kids at school. Ian told one friend that he’s going to be Spiderman someday, and that friend told other kids. Those kids now pick on him and tell him that he’s not going to be Spiderman. Ian was angry and sad that people didn’t believe him.
Continue reading “How Heroes Are Made”

Ian Knows Pain

Besides the obvious struggles, Ian’s Cancer treatments three years ago have created other problems for him now. The radiation machine that zapped the bad cells in his brain also deteriorated Ian’s gums and teeth. Two years after his treatments, our dentist told us Ian needed to get eight caps on his molars. The two-hour procedure was horrible for Ian; the recovery was worse. They sent him home with no pain killers. By the time the anesthesia wore off, Ian was crying and nauseated from the intense pain. It took three days for Ian to feel better.

That was a year ago. The ordeal is not over, however. Sometimes, capped teeth will have a buildup of fluids in the root area, which then requires extraction so the tooth doesn’t get infected. Two of those eight teeth had to get pulled over the last year. The second one was pulled this past week.

Knowing that he had to have another tooth pulled upset Ian. His memories of the first major procedure are still pretty fresh in his mind. He cried and whined about it for a while, but knowing that a pulled tooth means a visit from the tooth fairy calmed him down. I’m thankful he still believes even though he continues to have other children tell him the tooth fairy isn’t real. I’ve worked hard to keep the illusions alive; they help him get through some difficult things.

Ian went to bed that night with his tooth next to him. We told Ian the tooth fairy knows when he’s brave or having a hard time with his tooth, so the amount changes depending on his experience. Dave and I talked about giving Ian $2 this time since it was a difficult experience.

The next morning, I heard a frustrated, “Oh, man!” from Ian’s room. He came to me upset: “The tooth fairy didn’t come. She forgot about me.” I looked at Dave. We both forgot about the tooth fairy. I felt sick. Before I could think of an explanation, Ian said, “Oh, no. I bet she’s sick or something happened to her. There’s no way she would forget me. I feel bad that I got angry, Mommy. Something must be wrong.”

I had to hold back tears. I hugged him tight while saying, “You have such a sweet heart, Buddy. Of course she wouldn’t have forgotten about you. I’m so proud of you for not just thinking of yourself!”

“Do you think she’ll come tonight?”

“I bet she will. I don’t think anything will keep her away from you tonight.”

“Good.” He hugged me back and went about his day.

How could I have forgotten the tooth fairy? The only thing that outweighed my guilt was the shock over Ian’s reaction. How did my seven-year-old son turn that around on his own? How did Ian become a child who could so easily let go of his own needs and disappointment to feel compassion for another person (or, in this case, a fairy-tale creature)?

Having such a tender heart can only come from understanding pain; Ian knows pain. He knows it so well he can’t stand the thought of another person hurting.

So often, we try to shield our children from pain; no matter how hard we try, painful experiences will enter our children’s lives. If I could have, I would have given my life so Ian would not have had to fight his Cancer battle. But it was that very battle that continues to develop his sense of compassion. Ian does know pain; however, he also knows love, sympathy, thoughtfulness, and acceptance because of it.

Life After Cancer Blog

Positively—Scared

Ian and I playing in his tentI feel like a failure. I write about staying optimistic through whatever life throws at me, yet I’m scared of that very possibility.

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.