I wanted to share a book that I recently read. As you can tell from the cover, it is not just about surviving cancer, but long term. Especially if you notice, that there is a title after her name, combined with the title of the book, you can tell that author Heather Flint Ford, O.D. has survived cancer a real long time.
Dr. Ford is the youngest diagnosed survivor I know, at the age of infancy, and has a survivorship longevity well into her fifth decade. Our cancers were different, however, our modes of treatment were similar, which is how our paths crossed.
For some of my older survivors, the cover of the book catches the immediate attention. What I assume to be a snapshot of her health record, the image states “technic: Cobalt 60.” Cobalt was the type of radiation used back prior to the 1980’s. Those of us treated from the 1980’s through the rest of the century, know how harsh our radiation was. Cobalt was even worse. The cover also states the dose and duration, 4000 rads over six weeks. This was very similar to my exposure.
Dr. Ford goes through in very clear lay person detail, her journey through cancer and survivorship. She recites what she was told as an infant, recalls what she did as a teenager, and then reflects on her adulthood.
She then transitions to the stage that myself, and many others currently experience, dealing with the many late developing side effects from our treatment exposures. Not only the late effects, but also the fact just how hard it is to find a doctor who knows what we are experiencing and how to treat us. And finally, she tells of the torment that gets buried so deeply inside of us, the pain, physical and emotional, because we mistakenly believe, it is part of the process.
“CancerKid Grown” is a great book, from a “you don’t have to be a cancer patient to understand” reader level. I enjoyed many of the references she made growing up, as I am from the same area as she was, so reminiscing was fun. And as people read her book, I get the satisfaction that at least more will definitely learn about the medical plights of the cancer survivor. As time goes on, there are only going to be more of us.
“CancerKid Grown” by Heather Flint Ford, O.D. can be found on Amazon.
I wrote once before about one of my favorite childhood sitcoms that I used to watch, “I Dream Of Jeannie.” I referred to an episode where she discovered that she did not know her actual birthday, and the many questions that brought up. It led to her slumping into despair, to the point, that she was fading away, little by little, because she was so sad about that fact.
It was an incident with my daughters and a class assignment that prompted that post. And though I do not recall how long ago it was, it has been more than five years ago. Sadly, it happened again.
I try not to be over sensitive to ignorance about adoption, especially international adoption, and generally only react when it is racist in intent. But once again, another assignment, has provoked a sickening pit in my stomach. My daughter is to interview her parents on what it was like for them to experience my daughter’s birth.
My daughters both know they are adopted, duh. Although there is an inside joke, that even they partake in, that they have my eyes and hair, coincidence of course as I am not Asian, but have the feature of almond-shaped eyes. They do not shy away from the fact they are adopted, but they do not dwell on it either. My daughters have a father and mother. They experience things just like other kids. While they are aware of their culture, they immerse themselves as much as they wish, or not. So, both of my daughters pretty much go through life, like everyone else, not giving it any thought. They are who they are.
In full disclosure, the particular daughter who got this assignment, does not give it much thought when someone asks an ignorant question or makes an inappropriate comment. So, yes, it is me, the parent making the big deal. Because some day, someone saying the wrong thing, the wrong day, will make a difference to her. And really, it should not be this big a deal to handle differently. In fact, she has actually taken upon it herself.
As we reviewed the set of questions that she is supposed to ask me about her birth and our experience, since it is her paper and not mine, she will not need to submit my answers to the eight questions, which all are the same reply, “I was adopted. My parents do not know what it is like.” Take that.
Now, if you are bothered by that answer, do not blame me. That is the truth to questions that were being asked. It would not be the essay that her teacher would be looking for, but she would at least be answering the questions honestly, and if it shocks or hurts her teacher’s feelings, who cares? Her teacher did not care in assigning those questions.
Fortunately, my daughter is a bit more thoughtful. She also took is taking the assignment in a different direction, while still answering the questions, something the teacher could have done.
In the past, we have talked with each other, about the “why” my daughters were adopted, and the “how” the experiences were to us. I explained that the only difference between adoption and actual birthing to becoming a parent, is the physical process itself. Emotionally, the experiences are very similar.
It is because of those prior discussions, she has re-written her questions, so that she does not have to ask her parents anything about what it was like to be pregnant and experience childbirth, yet still explain what it was like to become parents. Because honestly, this type of assignment could trigger any number of issues emotionally for my daughters.
But my daughter will have answers to questions like “did you know your gender before you were born?” (we actually did not know if we were adopting a daughter or son until we were informed)or “how did your parents prepare for your arrival?” (we decorated the nursery and child-proofed the house just like everybody else, oh, we did have travel arrangements to make) or “what was that moment like when I was placed in your arms?” (an unbelievable sense of joy). Do you see how easy it is to ask a question, neutral to either biological parenting or adoption? My teenage daughter figured it out, why can’t a college educated teacher, or Ph. D’s in the curriculum department figure that out.
It is not about not realizing there is actual blood on the other side of the world. They both know that they have biological parents, somewhere. And when the time comes, I have promised them, that we would do a heritage trip, if they wished, to visit where they are from, and quite possibly, meet people who took care of them in the earliest of their days. And yes, if they desired to seek out their birth parents, I would help them.
You see? It is not the fact that their being adopted is the problem, it is that there are still to many who see this of having no value or importance, whether intentionally, or by ignorance. I have allowed them to ask as much as they want, learn as much as they want. But at no point, will I ever make them feel any less, just because they did not come from my blood. Make no mistake, my daughters are my world. And this world is a better place because they are in it. It does not matter how, but at least be aware there is more than one option.
I am going to take a small step back, give you all a breather. I posted some pretty heavy things the last few posts. And I do have other things going on in my life besides life after cancer.
I can admit, I am selfish. I do not want my daughters getting old. But reality has set in as they are in the later years of the education. Barbies and Backyardigans have been replaced with SAT’s and “hangin’ with friends.” Over the last couple of years, another factor has been introduced, the desire to work.
I have mixed feelings about this, because while I recognize the social value, as well as an opportunity to develop responsibility and gain experience, I am unwavering when it comes to any potential impact on their schooling.
Again, from the social aspect, yes, it is a great opportunity to meet new people outside of school. Also, there is opportunity to develop communication skills. I am not worried about the whole “responsibility” thing, as I raised my daughters to be responsible, help others when able, never to be standing idly by, if someone else is still working.
I remember as a teen, I had my first job when I was fourteen. I do not feel I was the greatest student, at least as far as study habits go, so working did not interfere with my scholastics. By the same token however, I often found myself working sucky shifts, late at night, on a school night no less.
My daughters are ten times the student I ever was. I do not question their study differences, though there is at least one noticeable difference, homework load, or at least how it gets completed.
Ultimately, as a non-custodial parent, I have no say in their decisions to work or not. But nonetheless, I have made it clear school work must not be sacrificed to be able to earn some spending scratch. I encouraged them also to keep in mind, their final years, they would also need to spend time doing extracurricular activities to earn potential scholarships for college. There would be little room to include employment demands, other than on the weekends, and of course, after spending all week in school, who wants to work all weekend?
The one thing that I asked both to keep in mind, is why they want to work. What do they plan on doing with any income they make? Is it to save for their future college expenses? Or are they going to work just so that they can enjoy the luxury of driving (an expense that will eat up any income they earn)? Are they working to earn spending money to buy gifts for birthdays and such?
I go back to my original requirement. It must not have an impact on their ability to do their school work, or grades. Both have tested the waters of employment. They are ready. But the trick is to balance the taste of green with the crossroad of their future. I hope that I have instilled on them, the importance of not being “married to the job” because of poor expenses management. I want them to remain focused that their schooling is more important than buying gifts because all the gifts they buy, the recipients will not be helping them to get into continuing education.
My daughters are good students, and good workers. I could not be more proud of both. There will be plenty of time for them to be bogged down with a forty-hour a week job, dreading Mondays, and all the other adult responsibilities. I just do not want them to miss out on their last few years as kids.