Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Radio Head(s)

We were contacted several months back about speaking on the radio during a fundraiser for the Aflac Cancer Center (where Ruby stayed during her chemotherapy and where we visit monthly for appointments now). As scary as that sounded, I passed up an opportunity to do that during one of our longer stays at the hospital, and I regretted it, so I told the Care-A-Thon team "yes".

I put the date on the calendar, but didn't give it much thought because it was so far away. Then the team contacted us a few times in the last week to firm up details and verify our attendance. Last night I thought through some of the potential things that would come up in our conversation (we did not have a list of questions or topics to be prepared for), and I tried to prepare for how I would respond.
Before we even walked into the building we ran into a friend. Her son and Ruby play at Gigi's and we have been so blessed to get to know them in the last three years. That helped calm me a little, but then when we checked in, we found out that we would be slightly delayed from our original time. Enter nerves again!  So Ruby kept herself busy in the infusion clinic...a place that I honestly loathed visiting during our treatment. A much easier/more pleasant visit today!
After about 30 minutes of play, they came and got us. As you might imagine, I didn't say half of what I prepared. The 'interview' went so fast and I wasn't able to process when he ('he' being Herman Cain) would ask something else or break in, so what ended up on-air was not any of the planned stuff. Such is life!

Here is the interview.

And here's what I planned to say:
When asked about the moment of Ruby's diagnosis, I planned to say that it wasn't hard. Ruby's diagnosis at birth was hard, because of our ignorance to T21. God used that initial diagnosis to make everything else that we've faced since then 'no big deal'. We had some tears, but God used Ruby's cancer to show us just how strong and capable this girl is, because her first diagnosis found us fearing she would not be either strong or capable. Cancer is shocking, but it's all relative, and we were blessed to not be blindsided by it because we already knew that kids with Down syndrome are more likely to get leukemia than other kids. That being said, we are so blessed that our pediatrician insisted on routine blood tests because even after Ruby was diagnosed, she wasn't symptomatic, so without that test, she could have gotten much sicker before we started treating her.
When asked about how our time at Aflac was, I planned to say that it was surprisingly ok. When you think about living in a hospital, it can be scary, but the reality was pretty 'normal'. You get into a routine and start thinking about your room as your living quarters and you just make the best of it. Ruby and I would have several things we'd do each day to keep us busy. After we had breakfast and did speech exercises, we'd walk the floor (or if we weren't hooked up, the hospital). We'd visit the garden or the playground and then come back for rounds. Then we'd repeat that cycle a few times during the day. The lunches delivered by Cure for the families on the AFLAC unit each week were a welcomed change from whatever combination of hospital food and snack bars I had. And the several times a week opportunities to dance and sing with the guys at Songs For Kids were therapy for me as much as for Ruby. Atlanta Clown Care made Ruby smile every time she saw them. And that's not even mentioning the volunteer readers and therapy dogs and the countless nurses and other CHOA and AFLAC staff that we encountered each day that helped us keep a smile on our faces.
When asked about how our family dealt with Ruby's cancer, I planned to say that it was hard. It was hard living in the hospital for most of 7 months. It was hard to miss Eli's last year in elementary school. It was hard to miss soccer games and field trips and other 'big kid' things that Maddux and Eli were involved in. And it was hard to live apart for our family. Ruby's first month included several visits at the hospital, but after that, we were in flu season, so the kids couldn't come to the hospital.

But we were so fortunate that this happened in the age of technology where the kids could see Ruby on Facetime each night, and Lehr and I could see each other over breakfast each morning. And we were incredibly grateful for the friends that took care of our older kids while I was living at AFLAC with Ruby. So many people stepped up in so many amazing ways...we couldn't have done it without them. And the big kids got to attend Camp Sunshine for a sibling camp, and they got to spend more one-on-one time with each Lehr and I as we traded off, so there were silver linings everywhere for them too.

When asked how Ruby is now, I planned to say that she is stronger than ever. God used Ruby's cancer and our time at the hospital to pull us closer to Him and remind us that He has us. Ruby has completed her treatment and is back to being a toddler who runs and yells and gets into everything.

So I didn't say half of that, but Ruby charmed the room, and she babbled on-air, and Lehr and I hopefully got to pass along a success story related to a place that doesn't always get to celebrate those.

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