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Voices of Hope & Healing
for Bone Marrow/Stem Cell Transplant

Time is a Friend
by Joy Jerome

Tonight I watched my 6 ½ year old son Cody play a T-ball game. He of course was the cutest kid on the field, with his red cap and league tee shirt. When it was his turn to bat, he ran fast as lightening to first base. As I smiled a "that's my boy" smile, a huge lump formed in my throat - I thought, "my son can run." In April 2005 Cody had to learn how to walk a second time. At that time his leukemia had affected how his bone marrow developed, and for months in late 2004 it was too painful for Cody to walk - so he just stopped. After he underwent intensive leukemia treatment in the spring of 2005, he had to learn to walk again. Fast forward to April 2007: Cody was skin and bones, sitting at home, hairless, gaunt and exhausted. He had just completed a bone marrow transplant and he was home, just starting the post transplant recovery. It was déjà vu.

The ability to run. The ability to have fun, play - even have a solid bowel movement. With each small victory in my son's journey with cancer and a transplant, I can't help but remember the losses - including his childhood innocence and my parental naiveté. Intense medical care has occupied so much of Cody's and my life over the last three years that it seems immensely abnormal not to be taking Cody's temperature or administering numerous medications throughout the day. I have to remind myself over and over we indeed are on the other side of the transplant. About a month ago Cody got an ear infection. I called our pediatric oncology nurse. She advised me to take Cody to his regular pediatrician. "He hasn't seen a regular pediatrician in over three years," I told her. She said this would be a good opportunity to learn what most parents handle medically with their children. It was an immense pleasure administering those eardrops. I felt like Cody had just joined the 'normal' kids club.

At dinner one summer night I noticed two fairly substantial scars on Cody's chest - one from the port from his leukemia days, the other from the double lumen Hickman from the transplant. I couldn't help but wonder what kinds of conversations these scars would generate as he got older and other kids or friends saw them and asked about them. How would Cody answer? How would he take people's reaction to what he said and integrate that into his cancer-transplant story? How would he frame his experience?

Of course I wished he hadn't any scars on his chest. And of course I wish I didn't have any on my heart either. But we both do, and the fact that we have these scars probably is not as important as how we relate to the experiences that brought the scars about. I can say with certainty that things do get better, and that time is a friend. This fall Cody just finished his first soccer season. Sometime in the winter, he'll start basketball. We move forward, day by day, with gratitude and hope.

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