We are all in the same boat, in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.
—G. K. Chesterton my life abruptly changed on Valentines Day, 1992, when my 3-year-old daughter was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (high-risk). At the time, I was the full-time mother of two small daughters, Katy, 3 years old, and Alison, 18 months.
The phone call from my pediatrician informing me of Katys probable diagnosis began my transformation into a "hospital mom." On the two-hour trip to the nearest children's hospital, I naively thought that my background would equip me to deal with the difficulties ahead. I had a degree in biology, and had worked my way through the university in a series of hospital jobs. I had experience in the blood bank, the emergency room, the coronary care unit, and the IV (intravenous) team. After college, I was a paramedic with a busy rescue squad and for several years taught emergency medical technician courses at the local community college. I understood the science and could speak the jargon; I thought I was prepared.
I was wrong. Nothing prepares a parent for the utter devastation of having a child diagnosed with cancer. My brain went on strike. I couldn't hear what was being said. I felt like I was trapped in a slow-motion horror movie.
I came home from Katys first hospitalization with two shopping bags full of booklets, pamphlets, and single sheets containing information on a wide variety of topics. I didn't know how to prioritize what I needed to learn, so I started by researching everything that I could about leukemia. With the help of my wonderful family and hardworking friends, I began to rapidly fill several file cabinets with information on the medical aspects of the disease.
Emotionally, however, I felt lost. Since most of Katys treatment was outpatient, I lived too far away to benefit from the hospital's support group, and I knew no local parents whose child had leukemia. I felt isolated. Then I discovered Candlelighters. (See
Appendix C, Resource Organizations.) This marked a turning point in my ability to deal effectively with my daughters disease. I began networking with the parents and made marvelous friends. I soon realized that we shared many of the same concerns and were dealing with similar problems. Advice from "veteran" parents became my lifeline.
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Although nobody gets a parenting manual or bible in the delivery room, it is our duty as parents to try to make our kids as well rounded, happy and confident as possible. It is a lot easier to bring up great kids than it is to try and fix problems caused by bad parenting, when our kids have become adults. Our children are all individuals - they are not our property but people in their own right.