The mysteries of life and faith underlie this true story of a family losing its youngest member to cancer. As bewildering is the child's extraordinary perception and her character, which take on shining power as her body loses strength. The book includes Kelly's diary entries, her Christian family's efforts...
The mysteries of life and faith underlie this true story of a family losing its youngest member to cancer. As bewildering is the child's extraordinary perception and her character, which take on shining power as her body loses strength.
The book includes Kelly's diary entries, her Christian family's efforts to live as normally as possible, and, through it all, her mother's persistent hope, faith, and love. Vividly written.
Excerpted in Guideposts.
"Living with a child who is expected to die is some of the sweetest and cruelest living there is.
"Invisibly a barrier forms between you, and no matter how long or how tightly you hold her, or how deeply you look into her eyes, you haven't really reached her. And so while part of you wants to quickly end this unbearably torturous interim, another part keeps longing to hold her again, to apprehend with eyes and heart for all of time, to pin her down, bring her safely to your side, keep enough of her before the looming, incomprehensible departure.
"There is little solace." -Alisa Bair in A Table for Two
Dr. Warren led me into the hospital conference room and closed the door. Lowering myself into a chair, I anxiously searched his face for a clue of what he was about to tell me. Something in his manner had already carried a message, and my heart beat heavily in response.
Sitting down beside me, he looked at me sympathetically for a moment. "I wish I had good news," he started, his breath suspended ominously between us, close enough to feel it on my face. "But I don't." His words siphoned the blood out of me. A searing heat coursed through my veins and burned me into the chair.
"We found the cause of Kelly's vomiting. She has a lesion at the base of her brain. The good news is that it's accessible."
"Lesion? Accessible?" I floundered to understand.
"A mass. Fortunately it's located where we can operate." He pulled an X-ray-like picture out of an envelope and pointed to a shadowy section at the back of her head, just above her neck. "The MRI shows the mass up against the brain stem, but we won't know until we operate whether or not it's attached. It's critical that the brain stem not be touched in surgery."
Like a tidal wave, Dr. Warren's words crashed against my heart. He paused, searching my face for damage. I groped for my bearings, not fully trusting what I had just heard. "Could you please call my husband at home and explain all this to him?" It was 7:30 a.m. Rob would not yet have left for work.
I stood up, and willed my body forward and out the door. Dear God! What will I tell Kelly? How can a six-year-old deal with this? Help me! Rounding the corner into the hall, I sensed that the activity at the nurses' station froze as I passed. They stood quietly, their eyes following me respectfully. They all know, I thought.
I walked into Kelly's room, sat down in the chair beside her bed, and fixed my eyes on the TV where Bert and Ernie were chatting obliviously.
"Mommy, what did he say?" Kelly asked, her thin, weak voice heightening my heartache.
I snapped off the TV, moved to her bed, and curled my body around her. Stroking her legs, I searched for the right words, held back my tears.
"They found out what's making you so sick." I paused; her blue eyes gazed intently at me. "There's something called a 'lesion' in your brain. It's pressing on a nerve, and that makes you feel like vomiting."
Her eyes widened with concern. I wrestled with how to continue and proceeded as gently as I could. "They have to operate to take it out, or you won't get better."
At these words, Kelly burst into tears. "I don't want to have surgery," she sobbed. Her cry of fear shattered my fragile exterior. Helplessly, I lay my head on her heaving chest and cried with her. She held me in her arms, and then her concern for me overrode her own fears. "M-m-mommy," she stammered. "Why are you crying?"
"I hurt when you hurt," I said as simply and honestly as I could, without letting her know the full weight of my agony. "Jesus," I prayed weakly. "Please help us . . ."
On a morning three weeks earlier, I awakened to the sound of Kelly getting sick in the bathroom. Again, I thought in puzzled frustration as I made my way down the stairs and into the kitchen. Pulling the calendar off the refrigerator, I tried to recall the intermittent dates in the previous five weeks that had begun the same way. I circled them, startled to see this was the seventh.
"Mom, Kelly got sick again," our 14-year-old daughter Lauren stated as she came into the kitchen for breakfast.
"I know, I heard her."
"Are you sure we can't catch what she has?"
"Well, if you could catch it, you'd have caught it by now," I answered. "This isn't acting like a virus. But I honestly don't know what it is."
The pattern was always the same: After vomiting once upon waking, Kelly would lie in bed for a while longer, then perk up and get ready for school, barely catching the bus behind Leslie, her 11-year-old sister. "Are you sure you feel well enough to go?" I'd ask. The answer was always yes. The nausea never lingered, and there were never accompanying symptoms. The first few times, with five or seven days between episodes, I thought little of it.
"If I didn't know better," I joked with a friend, "I'd think she had morning sickness!" But I was beginning to carry a nagging concern. And when the school nurse called me the morning I circled the dates, saying Kelly had vomited during class, I decided it was time to consult the doctor.
When Rob brought her home from her appointment that afternoon, I smiled with relief as I helped her take her medicine. "Aren't you glad we finally found the reason for this?" Coincidentally, she had registered a low-grade fever and presented a red throat with some sinus drainage. No other symptoms present, the doctor surmised she had a chronic sinus infection which was draining during the night and causing an acidic, upset stomach in the morning.
For five days she didn't vomit at all, and we were worry-free-until the next day when she vomited twice, then continued to do the same for three more consecutive mornings. Another doctor in the practice switched her to a different type of antibiotic, but the morning after her first two doses, she vomited six times. "Stop the antibiotic," he told me over the phone. "We're barking up the wrong tree here. Bring her in first thing tomorrow morning."