So, this is kinda Relay for Life, part 2. If you’re done reading about my cancer or about the Relay for Life walk-a-thon, it’s OK with me if you stop here. But the Relay for Life was one of those experiences that keeps on giving, so there’s a little more to share.
Monday is the day that my daughters get to show-and-tell in the Kindergarten class. The Monday after Relay for Life, they took in the medals they got at the Relay. They’re big, chunky things emblazoned with big letters that spell out SURVIVOR.
(After the “Survivor’s Lap” around the track, the Relay organizers are there, putting medals on all the survivors, giving them care baskets and flowers. It’s overwhelming, weird and sweet. When I put my medal on Dinah and gave my flower to Djuna, Djuna instantly asked where her medal was. Just as instantly, a breast cancer survivor standing nearby whisked her medal off and swooped it onto Djuna, saying that she had two daughters too.)
When the girls wanted to take their medals in for show-and-tell, I decided to stay and watch.
When they had their turns, they both said that they received medals because they helped their mommy get better from cancer. When they said this, both of them stood up at the end and raised their arms in the air, triumphant.
You *so* know that I got all choked up. Who wouldn’t? And I couldn’t help thinking how crazy it was that most of the Kindergarten kids bring in toys, stuffed animals, little treasures like shells and starfish (and that’s what my kids bring in on most Mondays), but that my kids have to bring in big medals that say “survivor.”
I wasn’t sure what to think about that.Â I felt bad about it, that my girls should have had to endure something so hard at such a young age.Â But I also felt fiercely proud of them.
I wanted to clap for them, but that’s just not what everyone does after the kids show and tell. The other kids asked them questions, like, “What do you do with your medal when you’re not using it?” and so forth. Dinah and Djuna politely answered their classmates’ questions and then took their spots on the carpet.
I was humbled by the normalcy of the whole thing, the easy sharing, the easy flow of the normal spate of questions from 5 and 6 year olds. But I was also struck by the fact that my girls don’t really understand cancer or what it means. They know that I was sick, they know that I took strong medicine that made me tired and bald. They know I had an operation, that I was gone from the house for three days for the operation, that I have scars.
They don’t really know that cancer causes death, though. I dread the day that they realize that.Â I am afraid for them to make the connection that I had a deadly disease, that anyone’s cancer can return, that sometimes people have to fight it again, that sometimes they cannot survive the disease.Â I want to protect them from having to know this as long as I can, but I know I can’t do it forever, of course.
I know how true it is that they deserve medals for helping me get better. I hope I can help them understand that, too.