In a few weeks Jasmine will mark an anniversary. I'm not sure it's one I want to celebrate but I need to mark it and remember it somehow. It reminds me how far that little girl has come, that a heart still beats and a beautiful soul is vibrantly present. At the beginning of March 2012, Jasmine became critically ill and was subsequently diagnosed with a brain tumour. Odds were on that this brain tumour would be benign. It wasn't. So Jasmine's journey began and she underwent surgeries and treatments for cancer - the journey continues. She's the bravest girl I know.
I have to get with that brave and put on my big girl pants tomorrow. As the world sleeps Jasmine and I will hit the highway at 5am and head to Children's Hospital. It's time for her follow up MRI scan and oncology appointments. We know the routine by now. She's had 4 or 5 a year since diagnosis. The passage of time doesn't make this easier. Should it? I somehow believe it should. That we should rest a little easier that she's doing so well, that she's getting back in to life, joining in going to friends' houses, learning violin, taking a dance class with friends this term. From the outside her life echoes all the other 7 year old girls in her class. I have to reconcile my thoughts to believing that on the inside her life echoes that of her peers too. That these hospital visits are just peppered throughout the year to make sure she's staying well and cancer free. Therein lies the problem. There's no getting round the in-your-face fact that our "routine" appointments aren't routine for all the kids in her class. It's not the regular scheduled dental check-up or eye appointment. It's the fake bravado we put on to take our babies to the jolly old day out at the Children's Hospital. Where the staff wear big smiles with their scooby-doo shirts, the walls have toys, painted cartoon characters and stars, and there are game stations enough to go round and tv's showing back-to-back treehouse. The parents pretend it's all just fine, and we nod and smile and say "fine" when asked how we are. But our nerves are stretched to a fine thread and our insides are a jumble of knots and we hold our breath, hoping, praying and hoping and praying some more that somehow God's grace will reveal that the scan will show absolutely nothing. Yep - those big girl pants most definitely a necessity. I breathe and think - Brave. My girl is brave. Be brave. Just be brave. I wish I could wear brave like an armour, so that the frights would all be deflected, but it's more just like a bullet proof vest.... if or when the shot comes, it might be deflected and you'll feel the punch; on the other hand, it might just miss the vest and hit home anyway.
Just before Christmas, cancer took a friend of my husbands, a wife and mom to two young boys, just after Christmas, another child in our support group. This week I talked to my own mum, on her own cancer journey, and just been told there is nothing more they can do for her. She'll be well looked after, of course, but sorry, our best efforts failed and she should crack on and make a list of things she wants to do and do them while she's feeling well enough. She's on the other side of the Atlantic and I have to get up each morning and put on my brave, accept there's no money to get on a plane again and go and spend time with my family there. The ache is something I never anticipated feeling. We chat on the phone and she asks how I am and says she's fine - BRAVE. And I want God to stop time, just for a while, so I can get away from I don't even know what. But have time to breathe in life, and love, and the people that matter to me.
I watched a show recently about climbing "the Chief" - it's a local massive granite mountain with sheer cliff faces. Tough to hike, really tough to climb and hadn't been done until the 60's and only with recent regularity from the 1980's. It showed a clip of one "brave" man free climbing part of it, no ropes or harness. And I watched from behind a cushion feeling stressed and afraid. I was kind of mad too to be honest! Taking that kind of risk is just plain unnecessary! And to dance with death that way, to take the risk, for the thrill - I just couldn't comprehend. Some people have cancer march right up to them and whisk them up on the dance floor for that waltz, side stepping death, whirling in to it, then away from it's brink only to swoop back down there again without the pleasure of being asked. I'm not a thrill seeker, I don't like surprises that much. And I challenge that free climber to come spend a day in a Children's oncology ward and see how precious life is, and learn a little more about being brave. Children shouldn't have a sense of their own mortality.
Do I want a life less ordinary? I've learned that the simple, everyday things are those to be thankful for. That a life full of ordinaries can never be ordinary because a life is a miracle, a gift - exactly as it is. I'll take ordinary every time thanks. So as my girl heads in to her MRI day, I'll be the one nodding, smiling, talking to another parent, hoping, praying, hoping and praying some more and faking that brave while the real heroes in children's sizes show me how it's done.