Growth and Change

This is the worst part of every treatment:

They have to put the stickiest substance known to mankind on his skin, over the port access, every time he gets treatment. They do this because, I don’t know, they don’t want him bleeding all over everything and they actually want the chemo medicine to go inside his body. They’re such downers sometimes. 

It’s not all sunshine and roses, this Leukemia, but even at the worst part of every visit, you can see what kind of kid this is. Teflon. Like, imagine your least favorite part of going to the doctor – the mammogram, the jellyfinger, the string of brutally honest insults – then imagine having that looming over you every week. That’s Payson with this sticky stuff. And he does it every week. Stud. 

He also has pretty weak muscles still, like he takes stairs real slow, pushes on his thighs as he ascends each step. He’s started walking with a little bit of dropfoot, which is a madeup name for some side effect of the vincristine medicine he’s getting where his Achilles tendon tightens up and his heels don’t touch the ground. So he ends up walking like the lady in those Prancersize videos, which isn’t all bad. 

They want us to keep after him and help him stretch out his Achilles and walk on his heels and all kinds of stuff. It sort of reminds me of the physical therapy I had after I had ACL reconstruction in my knee, and now my leg bends like the hind leg of a giraffe, so I don’t know what to think. 

Another fun side effect of the vincristine is that it effects his fine motor skills some, so it takes him as long to button a shirt as it would take me if my hands were on fire and I was wearing boxing gloves. At first, as usual, I got snippy with him because holy cow you’ve been obsessed with buttons since you were six months old so why in the name of Dr Seuss is it taking you a fortnight to button your shirt and please focus and stop being a moron. And, yet again, the doctor says this is part of his treatment and I am the world’s most stupidest dad.  Good thing kids are resilient. 

Also this week, the home health nurse didn’t have the stuff to access his port at home, because why would a home health nurse have the implements to effectively administer home health? So, Payson got blood drawn the old fashioned way – whiskey and leeches. Or maybe a needle, I don’t know, because he freaked out so much that he created a vortex of memory loss and shame. In any case, because he gave blood like a soldier, he was rewarded with a swimming night at Layton Surf & Swim. 

You see, his immune system numbers  are pretty good, but we really wanted to put them to the test, see what kind of extreme threats he is capable of fighting, so what better place than the Layton Surf & Swim, the swimming pool equivalent of licking 600 other people’s iPhone screens. But, to ward off infection, he did dress like aquatic George Mcfly, and it worked. No infections. Also, no dates. Shocking. 

Pace also went to Get Air indoor trampoline park, which is where you go in 2017 if you are nostalgic for the odor of a bowling alley in 1984. Brigham actually took Pace on a man date there, just the two of them, and he couldn’t figure out why everybody was staring. Like, why in the world would the average person be staring at two bald kids all alone at a trampoline park?  It sort of sounds like a major fail for the Make a Wish people. Regardless, Payson had a blast working on his sweet ninja moves. 

Also, in perhaps the best news of the week, Payson painted Wendy’s fingernails. We have no idea why, but out of the blue he requested the pleasure of using his innate beautician skills on his mother. And, wow, is he good. Wendy’s nails are stunning, like the Before picture in a nail fungus cream commercial. 

In the worst news of the week, Wendy took Payson and the crew to Chik-fil-A for “Trade Your Dignity for a Free Chicken Sandwich Day,” wherein he dressed up like a cow and waited in an hour long line with a bunch of other cheapskates in heifer attire in exchange for a $3 sandwich. Yay. 

And finally, his hair has started to grow back. But not all the follicles, more like maybe one in 50. If we let his hair grow out now, he’d look like when one of the kids gets surprised or scared in a Charlie Brown cartoon. So, we are now shaving our mostly bald kid’s head to keep him bald. Thankfully, I guess, medicines in future weeks will cause his hair to fall out again. It’s the little things that count!

And, for the sappy end, some thoughts about the maple tree in our front yard. It’s a remarkable tree. It wasn’t planted by anyone. There’s a park five doors down with trees like this, and one spring about 10 years ago a seed ended up in the yard and planted itself, and now it’s this amazing, beautiful, frisbee-eating, shade-intensive tree. 

I’ve laid under this tree maybe 30 times in the past 10 weeks, just looking up and appreciating how it grows, the number of leaves, the remarkable idea that it all came from a single seed that planted itself not long ago. 

It reminds me of how full this planet is of goodness, how rich and deep and beautiful nature is. How much our very existence is blessed and how much we are sustained without any effort on our part. 

It also reminds me that no matter what I worry about, no matter what I stress about, no matter the bitterness of worst case scenarios that I create in my imagination, there’s just some things I can’t control. And, whatever comes, trees like this are gonna keep growing, and the sun is going to keep coming up, and I’m going to be changed by watching the toughness and resilience and indescribable wonder of a seven year old bald kid with cancer. 

Hippies have some stuff right.