These past 12+ months have been anything but normal in our home. With the cancer diagnosis and the long stays in Ronald McDonald house and BC Children’s Hospital it seemed like those days would never be over.
Adjusting to life at home and regular routine is something that is almost foreign to us now. Trying to implement those regular things we use to fill our schedule with has now become a major challenge. It appears we are living in a fog or a haze without real direction. The feeling of being lost and trapped in a sense with this new life is a hard concept to wrap our heads around. The feeling of loneliness sometimes over powering our every move and decision. Friendships have drifted, or some have grown stronger and the constant over thinking of, what would life be like if this all never even happened?
Life has a funny was of teaching us lessons and scaring the shit out of us. We used to live in what seemed to be a fairy-tale not thinking much of life’s real struggles or trials because we were all fortunate enough to say, at that time we had great health and love in our home. That all changed the minute the word “cancer” came up.
With the school year just starting and all these kids starting kindergarten or returning to school my panic and anxiety set in. Is Harlow ready to start? Am I ready to let her go? Every day my feeling of not knowing what the right decision would be gave me a headache and a sick feeling in my stomach. I wanted to allow her to grow into her own person and to develop friendships and experiences I didn’t want to rob her childhood of anything. She is such a bright light and has a sparkling personality its like she was born to be adventurous and extraverted so what to do?
What’s the right decision for her and for me?
Let me tell you, this was a major struggle and stress for me. However, I decided that I need to let her spread her wings and fly. I needed to allow her to miss me and experience life as a typical child would. I started researching nearby preschools and found one quickly that I really loved. I took Harlow with me to go see the place and meet the teachers and she fell in love. She was instantly comfortable and didn’t even care if I was there or not. Hurtful you ask? Perhaps a little, a bit of a sting but I was so happy and excited for her it didn’t last long. I couldn’t wait to enroll her and ask about her very first day at school and if she made friends and what they did with their time. Unfortunately, the place I really wanted her to go to was full and not taking any more children which was super disappointing, but I figured maybe that was the way it was supposed to be, maybe I just received my answer to it all. I thanked the teacher for letting me know and asked her to keep me posted if anything changed but not wanting to get my hopes up about it.
A week later I received an email from the school saying one of the children that she had enrolled was not able to attend anymore and they would love to have Harlow as part of the class. Holy crap! I was so excited to tell her and explain they now have a spot for her if she was still interested in going. She was pumped and couldn’t wait, she wanted to go that very day. We went on a shopping trip to gather some items for school and she insisted on selecting her first day outfit, which she did awesome with. We packed her snacks and backpack with what she needed to bring, she was all ready for the first day.
My anxiety leading up to the day was a bit much to handle but the look on her face and the way she talked about it and how excited she was truly helped to calm my nerves down.
The first day.
She woke up bright and early ready to hit the ground running to school. She asked every fifteen minutes until she went if it was time to go. She got herself dressed and came out of her room with such a prideful look on her face. She got her snacks out of the fridge and put them in her backpack. She was ready, and I mean READY! As I pulled up to the school I had so many feelings, part of me wanted to just drive away and say to her “sorry we can’t go” but I knew that wouldn’t be right to do to her. I knew she still was so excited about this new venture. I held her hand up the stairs and we waited for the teacher to come out and welcome all the kids inside. I was a ball of nerves still hoping I wouldn’t cry like a baby when I said “goodbye” to her. The teacher was so amazing, super welcoming to Harlow and me, asking all about her and why she was attending and asking if I was okay. How do I even answer that? Am I okay? I don’t know if I’ve ever really been okay. If you asked me if I’m a basket case I would defiantly have to answer “yes” but that’s not new information.
I talked with the teacher and made sure she was aware of Harlow’s journey and asked all about the rules and expectations of kids that are sick attending school. She calmed my nerves a bit assuring me they do their very best to turn away any children that show signs of being sick and don’t allow them to attend school. That was a huge relief for me, as soon as she said that I was more focused on the fact that I’m leaving my child with a stranger, something I have never done. Harlow ran back to me again to give me a forth hug and say she was going to be fine. I walked out and back down the stairs remembering walking up the stairs holding her hand. Que the tears, and I mean tears. I sat in the truck having a bit of a moment with myself, questioning if I had made the right decision about this and if it was the right choice for her as well. Is she going to be ok? Is she feeling ok? Is she driving them nuts with how much she talks? All of it was running through my head. As I sat there with tears running down my face I was so damn proud of myself and her. We have been through a lot this year and look at our lives right now. Look at how much she’s improved. I hold onto these moments that she’s living life as normal as possible and she’s not in a hospital bed. I cherish the moments she’s truly happy and not talking medications or going to doctor appointments. She’s just being Harlow.
I’m so excited to see what this school year is like for her, the friends she meets and the things she will learn. I think this is such a huge part of us moving on the best we can, putting one-foot in front of the other and really allowing her and us to embrace the everyday. Enjoying freedom and the health she has today. Remembering tomorrow is not promised to us and that things can change so very quickly just like they did back on Aug.9/2017