Maggie's Absolute Neutrophil Count (ANC) is too low to begin the next phase of chemotherapy. A few months ago we would be really worried. Today, not so much. Today we are all about joyful hope. Back in the game next week.
My small prayer today: You have delivered us from needless anxiety. Thank you for answering our prayers.
So as Dr. V~ finished our weekly exam with a description of the next phase, I failed to notice what had happened. My response was a crisp, "Great. Good stuff."
What I didn't notice was that he had just said that Maggie had emerged from the most grueling period of chemo, Delayed Intensification it is called, with solid blood numbers, healthy and cheerful. She had come out on the other side of a period we had long dreaded and doing better than we could have reasonably asked.
I blew right past the moment as I did what I have become used to: steeling myself for the next onslaught, the next week of careful home medication regimen, management of messy side effects, meticulous hygiene, attentiveness to subtle changes, breath-holding care.
I was out into the nearly empty chemo clinic waiting for our paperwork when I realized what had happened. I had missed the moment to be grateful, because I was preparing to deal with the next trial.
Here's what I meant to say to Dr. V~:
Thank you for all the work. Thanks for being careful and smart. Thanks for working with Maggie and with us. More than that though, thank you for the sacrifice over the last 20+ years: for all the times you were studying or in lab when you wanted to be goofing off with your friends. Thanks for missing dinners with your family and working weekends and holidays, sometimes with people you never could like, but worked effectively with anyway. Thanks for finding the inspiration and motivation to keep honing your skills and mind.
We appreciate the Ramen Years, in whatever form you experienced them. We are grateful for your continuing work with sick kids despite layers of management and governance that must sometimes seem to stand in conflict with your oath and the application of your ethics and science.
Thanks for sweating med school. Thanks for sweating graduation. Thanks for sweating residency. Thanks for sweating your boards.
Thanks for working really hard for a very long time and laughing at our tense jokes. Thanks for gentle honesty with the hard facts, for letting us ask the same question several times and being gracious enough to give the same answer in different ways so we didn't think you were annoyed. Thanks for emerging from your own trials better for the struggle and with energy for the kids.
Thanks for calling Maggie a Superstar and accepting her hugs, because she still needs to feel like a superstar who can give as well as receive love. Thanks for all the help getting us here.
[Mildly Awkward Man Hug]
In all honesty, I doubt Dr. V~ would have held still for this appreciation party. He would have waved off our gratitude with a smile and turned it back on us. He would have mentioned the team.
This is where we are: Next week we begin Interim Maintenance II. Every ten days we'll be back to the clinic for IV chemo and a lumbar puncture. After 57 days of that we move into the next phase. Piece of cake, right?
Our little prayer this week: We see how others honor their gifts by applying them to improving the world every day. When we are aware of this, we better see what you mean by made in your image. Thank you.