I’ve had a lot of e-mails since I wrote a blog about Mia, one of Ruby’s best friends who is battling leukemia. Everyone wants an update; everyone loves a happy ending – and I wish there were one. The truth, honestly, isn’t that bad: She’s in remission, she had a bone marrow transplant courtesy of her little sister, and her prognosis is pretty good. But I wouldn’t call it happy.
“Oh, the family has been so lucky!” said a friend of my dad’s when I was talking about Mia. It certainly was good that Mia’s sister’s bone marrow was an exact match. It was good that Mia went into remission as quickly as she did. It was good that they got in at St. Jude’s, which is doing some truly amazing things for sick kids.
But no. No, they have not been lucky. If you’re actually lucky, generally you don’t even realize it. If you’re actually lucky, you lose your temper at your kids about stupid things; you tell your kids they can’t have candy in line at the grocery store; and if your house gets broken into, it’s a major catastrophe. If your child has cancer, which is like the very definition of “not lucky,” you cherish every moment; you value every single calorie that goes into his or her mouth, candy or not; and if your house gets broken into, it’s no big deal. Mia’s family’s house got burglarized while her dad was out of town visiting her at St. Jude’s – I was horrified; he was nonchalant. It’s nice to have that kind of perspective, but having a sick kid seems like a pretty heavy price to pay for it.
Ruby talks to Mia regularly via Skype at her day care. The first time Ruby saw her, she told me, “Mom, Mia has no hair. But I didn’t think she looked weird. I thought she looked beautiful. I thought she looked just like a spark!”
A spark! If someone else’s child said that about a cancer patient, I’d probably roll my eyes like the cynical asshole I am. But when Ruby said it, my eyes welled up. Like the weepy, sentimental asshole I am.
The last time Ruby talked to Mia, she told Ruby she’d recently seen Gnomeo and Juliet. And so Ruby demanded to see it yesterday when I picked her up.
“I have to see it,” she told me. “Mia and I are like twins. Mommy, don’t you think we’re like twins?”
“Hm,” I said. “I think you’re very good friends, baby, but I’m not sure you’re twins.”
Mia is doing well, and I am amazed at how far she’s come, how far cancer research has come.
But still, I am the lucky one, and I try to keep that in mind.
I love Mia. I think she is an amazing kid, and I thought so long before she got sick. But I am thankful that Ruby is not the one at St. Jude’s. I wish I could say that this perspective made me endlessly patient, but it doesn’t. Instead, I’m thankful that I have the luxury of snapping at her to sit on her bottom in her booster seat or else she can’t watch TV, of denying her dessert if she doesn’t eat dinner, of sweating the small stuff. I’m thankful that I can be annoyed at how terrible Gnomeo and Juliet was instead of treasuring it as a special outing. In short, I’m thankful that I can sometimes be a selfish, impatient jerk.
It’s a strange thing to be thankful for, but it’s even worse to just take it for granted.
If you want to help, you can donate blood in Mia’s name at the Ochsner Blood Bank or click here to donate through PayPal.