Tonight, Rick and I had some special people over for a special kind of party. Tomorrow, April 27th, Joshua celebrates 5 years since his diagnosis of a malignant medulloblastoma brain tumor. It's his "Cancer-versary", to steal a phrase from my friend Michelle. Because it's been 5 years, we wanted to celebrate Josh, and also take the time to thank our family, who were truly our ROCK when he was so very sick.
Here are just a few reasons why we celebrated them tonight. They might seem like small and insignificant things, but I assure you, they meant the world to us:
They all spent an agonizing day in the Surgical Waiting Room with us on the day of his tumor resection. We grabbed a corner and commandeered all the chairs around and just sat. And waited. And they took us to get food and coffee, made us take walks when we didn't want to, because they knew we couldn't just sit there the whole time. They cried with us, held us, held us (well, me) UP when I could barely stand because I was such a wreck...
My mom, more than once, gave me a ride to the hospital when Rick would have to rush Joshua to the ER because he spiked a fever and I would have to stay behind and get the "Hospital Bag" packed because we knew we'd be there for at least a week for IV antibiotics. We would always stop and get Joshua something new to play with for this inpatient stay. Hey mom, remember the time we got stuck in the traffic jam when I-96 was closed? It took us almost 2 hours to get through it and get to the hospital. I was a train wreck. Thank you for being there for me - I can't imagine I was good company at all. In fact, if I remember correctly, I may have yelled at you a couple of times for not being able to make it all go away... sorry about that!
Sue, my step-mom, would pop in on her lunch break from work because she worked in downtown GR, not too far from DeVos Children's Hospital. Just to give us a break when she could.
My father-in-law, Rick, paid for us to get new carpet because we didn't have the money (obviously) and we needed to replace the carpet before Joshua could come home from his transplant.
My dad, who absolutely hates hospitals and cannot stand to be in them, came down and painted a Winnie the Pooh scene with tempera paint on the window in Joshua's room when he checked in for his transplant. It was going to be our room from October until December, and we wanted it to be just a little more homey.
My grandma came down, faithfully, every Wednesday morning. I would stay at the hospital on Tuesday nights so Rick could have a night at home, and then she would come down when I had to go to work on Wednesday so Rick wouldn't have to come back until Wednesday night.
Lois, our other mom, came down and cleaned our room when we were at the Renucci Hospitality House before we could come home after transplant. It was a transitional place, but she knew how important it was that the room be as clean as possible since Joshua was so succeptable to infections and it would have been SO DANGEROUS for him to get sick. If you know Lois at all, you KNOW that no one does a more thorough job cleaning than she does - it's incredible. And it's something I could not have done... there was so much other stuff on my mind, that never would have occured to me.
Our dear friends, Hillary and Luke, went out of their way to keep things as normal for us as possible. In small ways, like coming over for cook-outs, or whenever we were home to play Euchre and just hang out. Things you take for granted but are SO important when you're going through something THIS life altering. It was a little taste of normal for us, every once in a while. And it couldn't have been easy for them to see Joshua the way he was - they didn't have kids yet...
During transplant, our moms worked out a system where they alternated doing an overnight shift one weekend night a week. That way, Rick and I had ONE guaranteed night that we could be home together. Not to really do anything, just to be together, and not at the hospital. When your child is in the hospital for so long and you have to be at their side 24-7, you would be amazed at how important it is to be home with your husband or wife, even just once a week.
Patti, my mother-in-law, also drove through a literal blizzard in November, well over an hour, when the roads were truly treacherous, so that Rick and I could go to Terry and Lois' house for Thanksgiving dinner. She stayed with Josh and shared his turkey dinner from the cafeteria, and we were able to go be with family, like our lives had a shadow of normal left. That was the one holiday between May and December that Rick and I didn't have to stay in the hospital for.
This is just a snapshot of the support system we had. It might not seem like a lot, but I promise you that when you have to go through what we went through, it literally makes ALL the difference in the world. There were more people, too, who were incredible, don't get me wrong, but these were the ones we wanted to thank tonight.
We had dinner together, and my mom brought a "Happy Remission" cake, so we had a toast. Mostly toasting Joshua, and how far he's come, but also toasting our FAMILY - the honest to God reason that Rick and I made it through Joshua's cancer. We could not have done it without their support. See, the thing is, this wasn't just our journey. It was their journey too. They walked it with us, held our hands, and helped to hold us up.
I could tell you over and over how thankful we are, but there just aren't words to describe the depths of it. It's why we survived as well as we did. Thank you, everyone, so much, from the absolute bottom of my heart.