Friday, August 1, 2008

Little Victories

Mandy had a sleepover last night. She slept over at her friend Rachael's house. In the world of 7 year old girls, this is not a big deal. Everywhere, everyday, little girls lay awake, giggling long past their bedtimes and squealing in pitches that only dogs can hear until they eventually pass out from sheer exhaustion or finally heed the parental warnings of, "I really mean it. It is time to settle down and go to sleep." Other than the amount of Advil required by the supervising parents and the permanent hearing loss they suffer as a result of the high pitched squealing it is not usually a big deal. Sometimes, it is.

Five months ago, Mandy was diagnosed with cancer and started chemo. There was a long list of possible side effects on the consent to treat form we had to sign. They don't list them all. After the nausea, vomiting and fatigue, one of the first side effects we saw was to Mandy's psyche. Her confidence and sense of independence was shot. Gone. Kaput. Truth be told, she has never been awash in independence. She had enough not be clingy, but wasn't exactly adventurous by any stretch of the imagination. Confidence? That she had. And had and had and had. Girlfriend had confidence. But independence, not so much. She is the baby of three kids and enjoyed all the frills and benefits that come with that title. But, then she started chemo. And everything changed. Now, anything that was more than a frantic grab away from me was too far. She was(and still is most of the time) afraid to sleep by herself. She is afraid of people she doesn't know. She is afraid of new situations. She has cancer. She was/is afraid. Period. Of just about everything. We work through it, little by little. She is getting there. She is in a much better emotional place now than she was 3 months ago. She is doing amazing and I am so proud of her. She is almost 8 years old and sleeps with me most 29 nights out of 30. She always wants to have a hand on me. It is where she finds comfort and stability. Though not at all standard behavior for your basic, average almost 8 year old, it is standard for her right now and given the circumstances I am perfectly okay with it. I am acutely aware of needing to foster a sense of independence in her. Whenever possible, I encourage her to do things and accomplish things on her own. Suffice it to say, it is a work in progress.

Last night, she got to have a sleepover. Just like any other average 7 year old girl. After group at CCC she went home with Anissa's daughter Rachael. Their son, Nathaniel, came home with us. All three parents involved in this trade off were perfectly comfortable with that fact that there was about a 98% chance that SOMEONE would be driving my daughter across town at 3 am. But, God bless Anissa and Peter they were willing to give it a shot and let Mandy take a swing at it.

In trade, I got Nathaniel, their oldest. He and Zachary went to wallow in Legos the minute we got home and did so until they left a few hours ago. There were a few breaks for food, potty, playstation and swimming, but mostly they were all about building a sprawling Lego metropolis in Zachary's room. They get along famously and had a blast, just being boys. Both boys have 2 sisters and a dad who is on the road in one form or another almost all the time. They both love having testosterone around for a change.

Nathaniel came with not so much as a change of clothes. 'Cause really? He is a ten year old boy. He so doesn't give a rat's behind if his clothes are clean or dirty. Zachary is the same way. Clean, dirty, teeth brushed, or orange, furry, nasty pirate teeth, whatever. If there are Legos, it's all good.

Then, there is Mandy. This, my friends, is a whole other ball of estrogen laced wax. Mandy travels quite heavily. Seriously, girlfriend needs an entourage to carry all the stuff she can't live without when we go anywhere. At one point in her packing process last night I was asked for a second piece of luggage. I'm telling you, if she could get matching 7 piece pink Prada luggage, she would have used it all. And needed a skycap to carry it all for her, thankyouverymuch. She(finally) got all of her stuff packed up and was ready to go. A few hours later, she realized forgot some stuffed dog. She had like 18 others, but forgot the one that really mattered apparently. She was upset, but soothed by borrowed stuffies loaned to her by the Rachael and Peyton. Crisis averted.

So, she steps up to the plate to take a swing at being like every other 7 year old girl. She played and squealed and giggled. First base. She went to sleep. Second base. She slept all night. Third base. She woke up happy and thrilled that she got to have a sleepover and so proud of herself that she did it. All by herself. HOME RUN!!!!!

Now, Anissa is a fellow cancer mom. This is how I managed to go to sleep at all last night. I knew she would go in and check Mandy's forehead before she went to sleep for fever. I knew she got how important this was to Mandy, but would also get how important it would be if she felt like she needed to come to home, to get her home. ASAP. I knew Anissa would watch over her like she was her own every single second. I knew she would understand my need to check in on her and I knew if she had to drive her 15 minutes across town at 3 am, she would only be annoyed enough to make me buy her a Venti Iced Americano and even then, only because it was a good excuse to have a yummy Starbucks fix. I also knew she understood how important it was for Mandy to try this. I struggled to get to sleep with her gone last night. Mightily. But, with my cell phone and the house phone on my pillow, I did fall asleep. Eventually.

Mandy had so much fun. She was so proud of herself. She said to me before bed tonight, "Aren't you so proud of me that I slept over at Rachael's last night, Momma? I had so much fun. Can I do it again someday?"

Sometimes, you gotta let the little victories be the huge victories they actually are. My little girl has been forced into an incredibly difficult situation that a lot of adults can't and don't know how to cope with. She has had her world rocked and it has shaken her deeply. That said, she is doing a beautiful job of handling it. She shows strength and beauty and confidence far beyond her years every single day. There were days in the beginning when she didn't smile. At all. There were days when she was just angry. Furious, really. There were days when she was scared out of her mind. There were days, when I thought she was buried so deep in there that I would not be able to get her back out. There were days when I thought I lost her. All of the beauty and wonder and joy that makes her Mandy, I was terrified it had been lost. Now, I see that gorgeous dimple every single day. Any day that she is smiling, is a good day. Yesterday and today, she smiled. Every day now, she smiles. Everyday now, she flashes that dimple, she laughs that laugh that you can hear from 14.7 miles away and it makes my heart overflow. Does it mean she isn't scared and angry and sad? Of course not. But today and yesterday, she beat it. She is still in a fight. Every single day, she is still in a fight. But today, she won.

Love to all~


Anissa Mayhew said...

I love your family and I love our group friendships. Like you said today, God makes sure the right people come into our lives at the right time.

Tell Mandy we have an open door policy for the Willis kids...and Mommy too if you get too lonely...and she is welcome to spread her wings and fly over here.

Love that girl!

Jennifer said...

Of all the people to trust, I can TOTALLY see why you would trust Anissa! She is da bomb! Yay for Mandy!!!

I'm tagging you with the "Brilliant Weblog Award"!! Go to my blog to see what to do.

Jennifer (Kids Cancer Crusade) said...

I loved this blog and was smiling the whole time! I am SO proud of Mandy for this milestone.