My daughter, Gabrielle, has survived Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia – or ALL – twice. She was first diagnosed at 21 months and went through two years of chemo. She was 7 years old, and completely off therapy for three years, when she relapsed. Relapsing this far off therapy was unheard of. She underwent three years of therapy this time.
Gabrielle survived this second cancer attack and as we neared the three year anniversary of being off therapy, I was of course anxious. The date passed and we sighed in relief. But we didn’t escape after all. My mom was diagnosed at that time with lung cancer. My role was reversed. I became a daughter whose mother was battling cancer.
My daughter is now 29 and wonderful. She was in that group of children who were the first to receive protocols resulting in long-term survivors of childhood cancers. Mom fought for 6 months before succumbing.
Being a mom whose daughter had cancer, then a daughter whose mom had cancer offered a unique perspective. There were similarities in treatment and care-giving, but because of my relationship with each of them there were also differences.
Writing poetry is one way I make sense of what’s happening within and around me. As I wrote and shared poems about my daughter and mom in my critique groups, it became obvious the poems were more than just my family’s story. They were tiny windows into what life can be like for families going through childhood cancers or other chronic illnesses, what it can be like as a care-giver – whether for a child or a parent – the resilience of children and families, and how dignity, humor, grace and hope can be found even In the Garden of Life and Death.
I was encouraged to gather the poems into a collection, as they offered insights for those never having experienced those situations, and they could offer hope and healing to those who were.
Tomorrow I’ll post The Creation of a Poetry Collection Part 2: Opening the Windows. I invite you to return and take a peek!