Lately, I catch myself thinking of Peter's cancer journey and amazed by how well he's doing. It's as if he never went through chemo or had cancer. When I get him dressed for the day or change his diaper I stare at his scar that takes up most of the right side of his rib cage. I'm reminded of many things: pain, praying hour by hour, uncertainty, suffering, and miracles. I'm reminded of how precious life is. I'm reminded of what's really important. The scar helps me focus and chill out about the things that stress me out during a normal mother's day.
I'm also reminded of Raul. We met Raul, a seventeen year boy, during Peter's fourth round of chemo in November. I was on my way to the oncology clinic with Peter for routine lab work in between chemo rounds. I was surprised when I got a call from the nurse on my cell phone making sure that I was bringing Peter's things to be admitted to the hospital that day. Some how I thought Peter wasn't due to start his forth round of chemo, which always began with a 4 - 5 day stay in the hospital, until the next week. After a confusing conversation with first the nurse and then the doctor, I was somewhat convinced that Peter was ready to start the last of the chemo. I was reassured by a peaceful feeling that all would be okay.
Then when we arrived at the hospital a few hours later to find the "clean" unit under construction. They wanted us to bring Peter around to the normal pediatric unit. I was freaking out inside because of Peter being immune compromised he shouldn't be around all the sickies. Peter was never allowed in that part of the pediatric wing before. So once again I tried to reason with the nurses and the doctor about the confusion in the schedule. But they insisted. And I once again had that reassuring, calm, peaceful feeling saying that it would all be okay.
Peter was admitted and the hydration was started. After a few hours the charge nurse came in to tell me that we would be getting a room mate. What??!!! She explained that it was another cancer/chemo patient and there was nothing else they could do. With the closer of the front unit and how busy it was we had to share rooms. Peter hadn't even been around his own cousins because of his low immune system how could he be around a total stranger and his family? I started loosing it again. The nurse continued to explain about Raul. He had just found out that he had cancer and would be getting his first dose tonight... She promised that as soon as a room opened Peter would get it. Once again I was calmed down by a reassuring feeling that all would be okay. Maybe this was happening to help Peter be more entertained through his last round of chemo. Maybe it was Heavenly Father's way of making things easier for Peter. This is what I told myself.
Chemo was started and the roommate had not shown up yet. Four hours went by and his nausea hadn't started yet. Wow. He was perfectly normal. Who would've known he had just been given chemo? And it was the heavy duty one that always makes him so ill. I was pleasantly surprised and counting our blessings. Peter was sleeping through the nausea. Amazing.
Late at night our room mate and his parents arrived. I can remember the nurses being relieved that he finally showed up. After the nurse talked to him and left the room Raul came over to our side of the room and opened up the curtain to introduce himself. When he saw Peter he got very emotionally and asked about him. I told him Peter's story and he told me his.
Six months ago Raul started lifting weights. After a month of doing that his shoulder became very sore. He thought he did something to it by lifting weights. He continued to weight lift. Finally after six months the pain was so bad that he went to the emergency room and after x-rays, then a MRI he was told he had cancer in the muscle and bone of his left arm. This all happened just a few days before meeting us.
I'll always remember how sweet Raul was after hearing Peter's story. He was touched and his heart went out to Peter. He had tears in his eyes and expressed how sorry he felt for Peter being so young and having to go through something so hard. We cried. I tried to explain that Peter was so young that he would never remember any of this and that we were sorry for him being 17 and how tough this must have been for him. We talked about religion and our faith. We talked about growing stronger through adversity. We talked about our prayers and love of Christ.
The next day Peter continued to do well. Raul would tell the nurses, techs, doctors, anybody who came into the room that if Peter could do chemo then he could too. I thought he was so brave.
I learned about Raul's dreams of the future. His parents were from Mexico. His father worked on a dairy in Norco. Raul wanted more for himself. He wanted to be a sheriff or fireman. He had already job shadowed with a sheriff. And that's why he took up weight lifting. We wanted to be strong.
When the doctor came in to check on us I heard the conversation she had with Raul. She explained all the procedures and why they were doing what they were doing, "We're doing all of this and hoping that we can save your arm..." Raul didn't hear that. He was listening but he didn't get it. I did though. As a mother I understood what she was saying. And then I understood how lucky Peter was. Peter was going to have half of his liver taken out but it would grow back. But an arm doesn't grow back. Raul remained youthfully optimistic.
Peter ended up getting really sick and we got our own room.
I never saw Raul again.
I asked about him the next time we were in. Cynthia, a child life specialist, was helping us out with Peter when he was admitted for a ct scan. She helps the children in the pediatric wing in all different ways. She told me that Peter made a huge impact on Raul. Raul was inspired by Peter. I was really surprised by that. A two year old inspiring a seventeen year old. Then she told me that when Raul first heard that he had cancer he was in denial. He didn't want to come to the hospital. He didn't want chemo. Nobody knew how to reach him. That was the night when he finally came to the hospital and was assigned to be our roommate. I guess seeing Peter asleep and resting peacefully that night gave Raul the courage to face cancer. So when he said, "If Peter can do it. So can I." He really meant it.
A scar can be a painful reminder of an injury but for me it's a reminder of blessings received.