It’s Valentine’s Day. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of it. There are many reasons behind my disdain but I’ll tell you one thing: not celebrating Valentine’s Day has scored me a lot of dates. Boys think I’m the coolest cat in town because I’ve lowered the bar on my expectations of them. While my problem with Valentine’s Day started in the first grade (revisit my post of being falsely accused of cheating on the word “Valentine” on my spelling test) I decided long ago that it was a dumb holiday. Pink and red have never been my favorite colors and WHO decided that a heart was shaped like that? It resembles the human heart in no way, shape or form. So, when I learned that the symbol of Valentine’s Day was no more real than Santa Claus, leprechauns, Easter Bunnies, or jelly beans and toast for Thanksgiving Dinner, well, I discarded it along with the stack of other dumb holidays. The only holiday that matters is Halloween, because ghosts do exist. Just watch Ghost Hunters for proof of that. 😉 I’m just kidding. What it comes down to is that I’m a cynical soul and holidays make me uncomfortable. That, and love stinks.
Actually, I love celebrating with my kids. I enjoy making little treats and cards for their classmates. In fact, I try to do it for all holidays because I do sincerely love giving gifts like that. It was nine years ago today that I was wrapping treat-filled cups for Ben’s preschool friends. I was pregnant with Madeline and desperately worried because nobody could figure out what was wrong with Ben. He’d been getting increasingly worse. Constant low-grade fever, intermittent limping, crying and saying “Ouchie” with his sweet two-and-a-half year old voice. It broke my non-Valentine’s shaped heart. Within a week of Valentine’s Day we would finally learn that Ben had neuroblastoma. After SIX MONTHS of doctor after doctor, urgent care after urgent care, misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis. I try not to get caught up in the “what-if’s” but it’s hard to not wonder if he would have had to endure less pain and therapy if someone would have just done a simple blood test and spent less time patronizing me by saying I was nothing more than a “nervous first-time parent.” I knew something was wrong with him, and, unfortunately, I was right.
February 19 is the nine year anniversary that Ben was admitted for tests to rule out cancer. Oh, how it pains me to say that they didn’t rule it out. When those doctors came in to say those horrible words that Ben had a 20-30% chance of survival, my heart flooded my ears with blood. I inserted my own Emergency Broadcast System noise in place of those horrible words. I clung to Matt because I knew I was going to collapse if I didn’t hold on to something. My son. My baby. How could this be?
I looked over at him laying on my mother’s lap while she rocked him in a rocking chair. He was sleeping soundly. He was wearing a little blue hospital gown and his diaper was full from all the fluids they were pushing through his IV. He had a board taped to his arm to not only keep his little arm straight, but also to discourage him from trying to pull the IV out on his own. The doctors kept talking. A long list of what he was going to have to endure if we wanted him to survive. I heard minimal of what they had to say because that buzzing in my ears was much louder than the volume of their heart-breaking words.
In addition to not loving Valentine’s Day, I generally don’t get too worked up about anniversaries, either. I usually enjoy birthdays – both my friends and my own – but other anniversaries kinda float in and out of my mind, with the exception of February 19, 2004. The start of finally getting some answers. The day it got worse before it got better. Ben certainly had worse days after starting treatment – days that nearly killed him – but, if it weren’t for that day and finding out about Neuroblastoma invading my son’s body, we might have lost him altogether. It’s certainly a bittersweet anniversary.
So, with my non-Valentine’s-shaped heart, I’m going to finish wrapping up treats and take them over to the school. I’m going to celebrate the fact that I still have my son – and of course, Madeline, too. She was born into this crazy world and has been subject to her own torture throughout his illness. But, in an effort to remain positive, their beautiful souls were ultimately enhanced by this horrible disease that we’ll have to live with for the rest of our lives (in some shape or form).
Nine years. It’s so hard to believe it’s been that long. But as I look back on all the memories, the most important one is to embrace the life that we’ve been given, regardless of all the bumps. And love is pretty darn important after all.
Happy Valentine’s day!
I gave myself this word. I’m awesome (and humble).