It’s barely 7 a.m and she’s already awake.
If you saw her right now, you’d see only that smile of hers, the one that could rival the sunshine outside her window. You wouldn’t know she had a difficult night. She doesn’t care about that. Her gaunt body clad in once-fitting pajamas and her little bald head will barely be noticed in the face of that gorgeous grin – all because it is her 10th birthday. She made it to the double digit!
She knows today’s her day – and not because of the dreaded illness. She’s glad the doctors let her come home. She didn’t like it at the hospital. She likes her room and all the toys she collected and filled her room with through the years. She would have liked to have friends over but her mom told her infection could be a problem – so no friends. But there will be lots of phone calls today – all happy ones to wish her and not sad ones checking up on her condition. She likes happy calls! Then her dad is going to sing her a special song, one he made up just for her. Her mom is baking a huge cake and her little brother is going to be less of a pest today – he promised.
Oh and there’s the gifts. She hasn’t a clue what to expect. No one has breathed a word about her gifts to her yet, not even her brother, and she’s always been able to talk him into spilling. She spends a couple of minutes wondering if she’s losing her touch but then convinces herself it’s because he’s not permitted to spend a lot of time with her. He could pass on some germs to her too.
Her little body is already tired but she’s promised herself she’d do all she could to eke out as much fun out of the day as she can. There’s so much happening today. Why can’t mom just come in with her breakfast and start the day officially already?
Down the hall is another room. Behind the shut door, Mom and Dad sit huddled together on the bed. Dad holds in his hand a lock of their daughter’s hair – vividly black and intensely smooth. It was one of the first locks to fall after the chemo. They know now that this lock, some videos and some cartons of photographs are all they’ll have of her when her birthday comes around next year.
No words are spoken there but the room is loud with the interplay of emotions. But those emotions will remain locked in that room when Mom and Dad step out with painted smiles on drawn faces to celebrate their daughter’s special day.
*Dedicated to the courageous spirit of all those who fight the battle with cancer – either as a cancer warrior or the family member. Also in memory of our little niece who fought bravely till she was called to be with the Lord a couple of weeks ago.