I knew that there would be some questions that would be hard to answer. I was prepared for the-birds-and-the-bees conversation –– “Daddy planted a special kind of seed in Mommy, and it grew into Ruby in my belly” –– though perhaps not prepared for her response: “Oh. Did he cover you up with dirt afterward so the seed could grow?” I was ready for the endless stream of “why-why-why,” generally deflecting it with a “Why do you think?” when I ran out of answers. I was even able to negotiate questions about my sister’s death fairly matter-of-factly. But one of Ruby’s very best friends (seen left) was diagnosed with leukemia last month. And I was not prepared for this. I believe in age-appropriate honesty at all times, but there are still times when I wish I could just lie to her.
“Is Mia still sick, Mommy?”
“Yes, honey, she’s still sick.”
“Why isn’t her cold better yet?”
“Well, Ruby, she’s a little sicker than just a cold.”
”Oh. Like cancer? Maybe she has a little bit of cancer.”
“Yes, baby, I’m afraid she does.”
”Mommy, I hate cancer.”
“Am I going to get cancer?”
“No, love, I don’t think so. Most kids don’t get cancer. Mostly kids just get colds and tummy aches.”
“How come some kids get cancer and some don’t?”
“Ruby, I don’t know. Sometimes bad things just happen.”
This isn’t glurge. There is no lesson here. This just sucks.
The last time I saw Mia before she was diagnosed, she’d just come from the doctor because no one could figure out why she was feeling so bad. She’d gotten some candy for being good at the doctor, and Ruby wanted a piece. Mia didn’t want to share it, which was unusual for her because she’s normally so sweet and generous –– she really must have been feeling crummy, and she was so weak her mom was carrying her. I told Mia it was OK, that she didn’t have to share her special candy, and walked away to get Ruby strapped into her car seat. While I was doing up the buckles, I felt a tug on my skirt, and Mia was standing there holding a piece of candy. “I changed my mind,” she said. “I want to share after all.” She’d walked half a block when she obviously felt like crap to share a piece of candy with my daughter. Two days later, she was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia and started aggressive chemotherapy. She spent a month at the hospital and is now, thankfully, in remission. She’s headed to Memphis this weekend for a bone marrow transplant, more chemo and radiation –– and she just turned 5.
As I said, there is no great lesson to be learned from this, no deeper meaning. But there are several ways you can help.
• There is a blood drive tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at St. Francis Xavier, 444 Metairie Road, in honor of Mia.
• If you’re a coffee-lover or know a coffee-lover, you can go to miasmiraclecafe.com to buy a bag or several of Holiday Blend, Colombian or decaf.
• Our beloved former intern Mallory Lindsly is raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society by training for the Mardi Gras Marathon. You can contribute to her here.
Sometimes bad things happen to good people. But good people can always help other good people. Please help if you can.