A few months ago, Joli and I took a trip to see her ocularist — the wonderful and brilliant professionals who created her prosthetic eye. It had been nearly 10 years since she first received her prosthetic, and it was time to create a new one.
It has been ten years, today, since the day she was diagnosed with cancer.
A full decade.
Back then, life was simpler. Joli was our only child, and as the first grandchild, there were plenty of hands to help out. Since her cancer diagnosis, we have added on to our family (two more children, and many more nieces and nephews). She has added new Aunts and Uncles by way of marriage. New cousins. There have been new houses, new pets, new schools and new friends. New fashions (including the blue hair she is currently rocking). New technology (e.g., FaceTime, iPads, Sirius Radio). And even a new President.
So why does the anniversary of her cancer diagnosis never get old.
On the day that Joli was diagnosed, Jorge had just begun a new job. He hadn’t made many friends or connections in his first few weeks because all of the teachers and most of the staff were on summer vacation. Yet, within weeks of starting, we were hit with Joli’s diagnosis. Quickly, strangers became friends.
Now, ten years later, after a few years of moving around to a different state, our entire family is now at this school. It’s funny how life brings you back to where you belong.
Ten years ago, today, I was rocking my 2-year old back and forth as we waited for a second opinion. We were told she needed to have her eye — the one that had been destroyed by cancerous tumors — removed. We were warned that she may need to have both eyes removed.
I remember the feel of the cold, grey waiting room. I remember her wet tears pooling in the shallow of my collar bone — her cries begging for food that we could not give her. “Just in case we have to operate this afternoon, she needs to have an empty stomach,” we were told.
I remember the feel of her soft curls tickling just under my chin. Weeks later, I would remember the sight of those soft curls on the top of my pillow case, slowly dying off after chemo treatments.
I remember the feel of the newly installed carpet as I kneeled down next to the bed. Praying that God would give me her cancer. Praying that I would wake up from this nightmare.
Praying that I hadn’t, somehow, caused it. Maybe it was the time I fell while walking the dog. Maybe it was the time I drank two cups of coffee. Maybe it was the time I ate too much sugar. Got too deep a massage. Was too angry. Maybe.. maybe.. maybe.
I’ll never understand why it happened, but I do know that our lives are better because it did.
Because of cancer, my 12-year old daughter is the kindest, strongest, most compassionate person I have ever met. Because of cancer, my child has become my teacher. Because of cancer, my girl has learned how to cross boundaries, to engage with different types of people, and to look past the physical characteristics of others.
Because of Joli, my fear that I had done something wrong is fading.
And the reality that something — someone — so right is present.
Peace, love, and wishing Joli a happy cancerversary,