Going for the Win

I know I’ve shut down a bit lately. Getting the news that Ben’s disease has progressed despite being on chemo really threw me over the edge. This has never happened before. Therapy has always made him better. Yes, he relapses a lot, but therapy has always helped. And now that it isn’t, well, that’s simply terrifying.

The scanning process and receiving the results is a major life stressor. The more I’ve thought about it over the years, the more I liken it to a championship playoff. We’re going in for the game of our lives. Someone will win, someone will lose. And I keep getting those damn shirts printed stating that we have emerged the victor only to pack those shirts away because they end up being a painful reminder of all the losses.

I’ve always wondered what happens to the shirts declaring a victory for the losing team. Right now, my environment is filled with orange and blue shirts touting the exceptional season the Broncos just had. Every-freaking-thing around Denver is swathed in Orange and Blue because we’re WINNERS! YAY! But what about the Panthers? You know they had shirts made declaring them the victors of Super Bowl 50, but since they didn’t win, where do the shirts go? My good friend and world traveler, Melissa, tells me that she’s personally seen losing team’s swag adorning our fellow humans in third world countries, where things like football championships must seem ridiculous in the face of something like, say, starvation. But who cares what the shirt says when it’s protecting you from the elements? I’m sure they don’t care one bit, and, in fact, are grateful to the losing team for providing them with a basic need.

But at what point do you retire? We can’t all be like Peyton Manning and retire after a huge career win. Some of us – most of us – have to make a graceful exit when things aren’t at an all-time high. And how offensive it was – to me – to have Ben’s team offer an option of stopping treatment. Now, I’ve been working on making peace with this shit-storm my son’s been handling for 12 long years. Some days, I have a grip. Many days, I do not. I don’t understand the WHY of my son having to endure and not willing to accept other’s belief that Ben has cancer because there’s evil in the world. Now, I’m not willing to engage in a religious debate, but this is nonsense to me. I can’t do a damn thing about the WHY Ben has cancer. My job is to support him through it. And I am. I wouldn’t change that for the world. If I had to choose between Ben and his battles and a kid who leads a seemingly charmed life, I’d choose Ben all over again. He has made me a better person. He has taught me about unconditional love. And he’s helped me to understand that there is no room in life for hate. Anger? Sure. But hate? No. Except clowns. They’re bad. And ticks. Ick.

So, as we’re sitting in the room waiting for results, I keep my thoughts and feelings on lock-down mode until Ben can process for himself. His Pavlovian instinct to look at me when we get bad news has led me to this decision to keep it together for as long as I can. Ben is in charge of what comes next. I will always offer my input along with pros and cons, but since I’m not physically undergoing these challenges, it’s not up to me. I held my breath when the doctor offered the option of stopping treatment… and of course that’s a valid option, I just don’t like it. And when Ben thoughtfully processed that option and chose to discard it, my silent sigh of relief and flow of adrenaline distracted me from bursting into tears. Reprieve. For now.

But continuing to fight has a whole extra set of challenges. We’re asking his war ravaged body to endure more. To fight harder when he’s already fought so hard. To recover when his body is simply trying to exist… too exhausted from the battle to overcome. How do you ask for more?

Because I believe he WILL overcome. He wants it so badly and I will support him through it all because I take my job as his personal cheerleader very seriously. He still (as he says) has “stuff to do” in this lifetime. He’s becoming such a neat young man right before my eyes. I couldn’t be more proud of his strength and determination and his ability to love and accept. Despite the circumstances. Despite freaking cancer.

And while the shirts touting a recent victory will go unworn, I believe in his comeback. This beautiful child of mine has my unending support. No matter the outcome.

But we’re going for the win.


Join the Conversation


  1. Beautifully written. I feel guilty because I can’t let myself REALLY put myself in your shoes. I’m not as strong as you. I think I would collapse and sink into a deep depression. I’m so sorry you have to go through this . Ben is lucky to have you for a mother. My heart truly goes out to you both. I hope you treat yourself as well as you can and keep being an awesome cheerleading and source of strength for Ben. I swear I wanted to throw my phone when I read this because I see the pain and frustration. I don’t want either of you to go through this . Love to guys and stay strong.


  2. I too was bothered by the question. I suppose they HAD to offer him the option of refusing treatment, because of his age or something, but to me his level of strength, his condition, his zest and desire for life, all that and more, make such a decision highly uncalled-for. I was also concerned when the first round of the last treatment resulted in no change. All that discomfort just to tread water? I think your (plural you) decision to go for a harsher treatment is a good bet. A good hard hit to the disease seems like a good plan. Ben is so strong and smart, and his support team (you-all) is so supportive, I feel like this will make a difference. We are all on his side, whether he knows us or not.


  3. This news rocked me to the core Sarah. There isn’t a day that goes by without serious prayers being said for Ben and for you and Maddie. I can’t imagine how this felt for you all, as my family and friends had an awful time digesting it. Any way, we are here and we are praying. You all have made us better people as well, we rethink our complaints, we re think our challenges and our response because you all have taught us how fortunate we really are. You are amazing, and we are grateful to have you in our lives. Hugs


  4. I LOVE YOU ALL!! I miss you and I am here if you need anything within my realm of possibility!



  5. Once again, wise words from a wonderful cheerleader. I love your opinion of this amazing child you were given. He is wise beyond his years and he chose well when he picked you for his mother. I admire your courage and the honesty with which you describe your feelings. You know that I, like so many others, am here to help hold you up when you need it. Way to hang tough, soul sista!!! I’ll love you in the next life, too!!!


  6. Wow…just, wow. Both you and Ben (and Maddy of course) continue to amaze me. You are truly the best mom in the entire world and nobody will EVER be able to take that from you. Ben is probably, scratch that, Ben IS the coolest kid in the entire world but he is so because of you. You know my history and losing Jackson is by far the hardest thing I have ever or will ever endure but I never had to deal with the emotional struggle that a child endures when they have cancer and I am so incredibly thankful for that. The decisions that Ben faces are beyond not fair and the strength that you have to allow him to make those decisions is something that I don’t know that I would have. Bravo to both of you. I wish so desperately that I could be physically there for you and I hope that you can feel my love and support over the miles. I love you my dear friend.


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