“I let my 15-month-old roam around the pediatrician’s office waiting room all by himself today.
I kept him up in my arms as I walked through the parking lot. But after entering the waiting room and approximately 2 minutes of holding all wriggling 25 pounds of him, my arms grew tired so I stood him next to me. He stood there, holding my hand, for 0.5 seconds before attempting to pry his tiny hand from my grip and dash across the room. Of course I didn’t let that happen. Not yet anyways. We had to check in at the front desk, first.
After checking him in for his 15-month checkup, off he ran toward the back section of chairs. I calmly followed and watched as he explored the round, chair-height tables placed neatly in the center of each section. Resting one hand on the tabletop and slowly walking around in a circle, allowing his hand to explore the cool, smooth texture. Immediately after he’s done with that texture – he darts off further, coming to a mirror. (A children’s mirror surrounded by a castle scene.) He walks up close enough to kiss his reflection and excitedly beats his fists on the (plastic) mirror. I am always near, but am letting him walk and explore. I explain to a man who mentions how happy my son is, that he just started walking so he loves to practice! He said, ‘enjoy it.’ I smiled and thought to myself, ‘I am enjoying this more than you know.’
I was enjoying this moment immensely. I watched as my toddler approached a little girl wearing a paper face mask. I wondered if that little mask looked familiar to him? I wondered if I should intervene and prevent an unwanted toddler arm touch? He didn’t try to touch her, just smiled up at her through his pacifier. Off he toddled again before a nurse called us back…
You see, this waiting room free-for-all I was encouraging and enjoying is a stark contrast to our previous pediatrician office visits.
Just 6 months ago I walked into that waiting room with my 9-month-old closely held to my chest in our Tula (baby carrier). His bright blue eyes peeked up at me – almost completely covered by a paper face mask. It’s impossible to find paper masks that actually fit an infant, grr. While we waited to check in, I was filled with nerves – my hands slightly shaking with anxiety about the wait. We needed to check in and go straight back to the exam rooms. I had explicit orders and previously discussed arrangements to be in this waiting room (brimming with germs) for the shortest amount of time possible. Even with these strict orders and previously discussed arrangements, some of the front desk staff seem very confused when I mention that we cannot wait in this waiting room, we have to go straight back. I explain (for the 2nd time) that my son is immunocompromised and cannot be in this waiting room surrounded by sick people. Yes, this chubby baby on my chest. Yes, he’s currently on chemo. Yes, he has cancer.
Our perfect, happy, healthy baby boy had a belly full of tumors. Cancerous tumors.
I’ll never forget placing Jameson on the table that day. I mentioned that I was concerned about the size of his belly. ‘Does it look too big?’ I saw concern in her face immediately as she looks at his belly. My heart dropped. She palpates his side and says, ‘I can feel his spleen. I’m going to give him an X-ray right now.’ Something is wrong. No. What? There can’t be. He’s never fussy unless he needs something, and then he’s fine after that need is met. He’d never even been sick.
The nurses come carried my baby off to be X-rayed.
When the oncologist finally came in, he informed us that Jameson’s ultrasound revealed two large masses in his liver, and another large mass behind his kidney. He was officially diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma.
Suddenly nothing else in the entire world mattered. My baby had cancer.
He has endured 8 rounds of chemotherapy.
It is absolutely amazing the change 6 months can bring. Both wonderful and devastating. My world, right now, is absolutely beautiful. I feel the sunshine, I watch my heart beat outside of my body times three every day. My kids are beautiful and happy and healthy. I am happy and full of appreciation to have the life I do. For my children to have the lives they do.
But this beauty and world full of appreciation stems directly from the devastatingly cruel world of childhood cancer. With all of this joy, came a lot of pain before. With all of this appreciation, came pure anger before. With all of this beautiful hope came mountains of fear before.
I don’t know why I was able to enjoy my toddler running freely in a pediatrician’s office waiting room today, while so many mothers wept as their toddlers writhed in pain. I don’t know why I was able to watch my 8-year-old climb up the stairs of a school bus this morning, while so many mothers consoled their child who wants nothing more than to go to school. I don’t know why I was able to kiss my Kindergartener before she walked into the school cafeteria for breakfast, while so many mothers are grieving their child who did not live long enough to start Kindergarten.
I have immense guilt and empathy for every single mother experiencing loss and cancer treatments right now. But I will use this immense guilt and empathy to push myself to truly enjoy and appreciate every moment I have with my children. I will let my toddler run, learn and explore. I will let my Kindergartener have that snack and juice she insists she needs. I will encourage my 8-year-old to explore his passions and assist him however I am able. I will not take any of these moments for granted. I will not forget what the world of Childhood Cancer feels like. I will continue to share and promote awareness and action.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Rachel Camp of Council Bluffs, Iowa. You can follow Jameson’s journey on Facebook. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
Read Rachel’s backstory of her son’s cancer battle:
‘Does it look too big?’ Our perfect, happy, healthy baby boy had a belly full of tumors. Cancerous tumors.’: Mom’s newborn diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, says ‘every little moment’ with loved ones is a ‘reason to celebrate’
Please SHARE this story on Facebook to help spread awareness to other parents!