When you’re the parent of a cancer patient, it’s so hard for people to comprehend how much their choices impact your child.
Even close friends and family who have been with you through the entire process don’t get it. “Well, it’s just a tickle. I’m sure I’m not getting sick.” Then, they spend the rest of the day walking around hacking.
When The World Is Suddenly A Minefield Of Germs
When my son Cooper’s immune system was compromised, it felt like I had to teach people the basic kindergarten rules. Cover your mouth with your arm when you cough. Wash your hands after you blow your nose. I mean eeewww, do you know how many people don’t do these two most basic things?
Of course you do. You’re a cancer parent, too. You notice every coughing person in the room. You watch them to see if they cover their mouth and do your best to help your kids avoid these obviously sick people.
Most people don’t have to worry about it, thank God! A cold is an annoyance to them—not a life threat.
What Other Parents Don’t Know
I wish, when they decide to give their sick child Tylenol and send them to school, that they could be there with us when we’ve kissed our own children goodnight at bedtime only to realize they have a fever.
I wish they could watch us gather them up in their pajamas to head straight to the nearest ER.
I wish they could stand there and listen to the doctor trying to decide whether we should be sent by car, ambulance, airplane, or helicopter to Children’s two hours away.
The Long-Term Aftershocks
I wish they knew what it was like to always have a suitcase packed with three days’ worth of clothes. To have duplicates of favorite toys, so you could be ready at a moment’s notice to head to the hospital.
I wish they could feel how hard it is to walk out of your house and not know if you will be back in a few days or a few months. Because everything depends on how long it will take your child’s weakened body to fight off the cold their kid will be over in a few days.
So, if there was one thing I wish people understood about childhood cancer, it would be that, when we ask if they are sick—when we avoid them as they are coughing or blowing their nose—it’s not personal. It’s our only attempt to control a situation that we ultimately know we have no control over.
And if they could help us out (instead of trying to make us feel guilty, insane, or overprotective) by taking simple precautions that just might save our child more pain—that would be great.