Dear Little Jaymun,
Today you turned six months old. What is a happy milestone in most babies' lives has instead been a reminder to our family that your young life has consisted of a half year's worth of medical issues. This hospital has been your ongoing current address since birth. I'm certain that "home" to you is not the standard image most young children have in their minds of a warm, cheerful abode where brother and sisters co-exist and laughter rings out from all corners. This is not the picture I had in mind when I imagined your infant life starting out. It saddens me that you think it's "normal" to feel sick everyday, that it's "normal" to have visitors clad in yellow gowns and masks and gloves, that it's "normal" for people to poke and prod you, no matter how loudly you protest.
Part of me wants to cry out in self-pity and explode with indignation at the injustice of what cancer has done to our family. I have moments where I feel like launching objects across the room and screaming out, "This is the most unfair, most overwhelming situation a human being could ever go through!! Why is this happening to us, of all people?!" Months of chemo, infections, radiation, viruses, drugs, meds, procedures, tests--the list goes on and on and it seems to never end. Your body fights off one thing and then another worry pops up in its place. There are times that I envision the stress of your leukemia just eating away at my insides, like a giant worm. I don't remember the last time I fell asleep without tears soaking my pillow.
And then the other part of me, the part that believes life can indeed sometimes have happy endings, rejoices that our family still has you after six months of cancer treatment. There is no living in this hospital and avoiding the pure ugliness of what cancer does to a body. When I see other babies your age in public who can be toted here and there without fear of deadly germs, babies gnawing happily on their chewy toys and waving their plump little arms and legs in the air, it reminds me that there was once a time when I too perhaps took my own children's good health for granted. I see your little bald head and your face entirely devoid of eyelashes or eyebrows and my heart hurts for what you have suffered. Yet still you are with us, a miracle to be sure.
It's become increasingly difficult to have conversations with other people that involve small talk. My friend Jody suggested that when one goes through such a life-changing situation, it's a shock to observe others living so casually. The months of taking care of you have forever changed my outlook on life. It's a struggle to relate to the everyday things that seem to interest everyone else. I've seen my child come close to leaving this world and nothing else seems to matter. I don't begrudge others their ability to go about their day with ease, but I sometimes envy the way life's small bumps seem like such huge roadblocks to others. I know differently now.
You, little Jaymun, are an amazing, delightful addition to our world. I had no idea that such a little body could impact people's hearts in such a huge way. From the moment you came into our lives, you started teaching us lessons about strength and courage and faith. People keep asking us how we can still smile when we've been through so much and I tell them, "It's because we've been through so much that we smile." You bring us joy, even when the day threatens to siphon all the beauty out of it. I don't consider our family to be unique, despite the tragedy of your cancer diagnosis. I see us as an ordinary family that had something extraordinary happen to us.
I enjoy watching the relationship between your siblings and you develop. When they visit us in the hospital, it's as if a sunny breeze has blown into the room. You have figured out quickly that the Twin Tornadoes of Fun (otherwise known as your brothers) are a welcome source of excitement and that yes, you would very much like to join them in their whirlwind of chaos. They stand in front of you and vie for your attention. You turn your head back and forth, watching the two of them entertain you with their laughter and chatter and you beam. When I worry if you recognize who exactly belongs to your family since their visits are so sporadic, I just remember how you always stick your tongue out as soon as you spot one of them. That little tongue is a barometer of your happiness: if it's sticking out, life is good.
When you ended up in the ICU last month, it was the most frightening two weeks our family has ever gone through. I was afraid the sight of your swollen face and body might be too much for your brothers and sister to take in. The sounds of all your machines were so intrusive to the senses and there were so many wires and tubes hooked up to keep you breathing. You drifted in and out of sedation throughout the hours. Devon leaned over your crib and said, "Hey buddy! Guess who's here to see you?" At the sound of his voice, you cracked open your eyes to peer at him and he giggled in surprise. There was a tender moment where the two of you just stared at each other and then Devon remarked matter of factly, "I guess he still knows we love him, even when he's really sick."
Love has never been a thing we take for granted these days. You have been the cement that has held us together, the catalyst that keeps us rooting for your recovery. We measure our blessings in "Jaymun increments" now. We can't help but be inspired by your will to live. Every once in a while, Sean will blurt out to people in the elevator, "Our baby brother has cancer." As the strangers try to mask their startled reactions, he adds, "But he's really tough. He was twelve pounds when he was born." It's impossible for people to not notice how proud your family is of you. Their love for you is fierce and protective.
I don't ever recall six months of so many ups and downs before you came along. Six months of intense heartache. Six months of sweet smiles and squeezable softness. Six months of clinging to God's promises that He will never leave us in those moments of despair and darkness. Six months of witnessing prayers that wound around the globe on your behalf. Six months of wrestling with doubts and fears that threaten to entangle themselves in our moments of joy. Six months of realizing that life is so very fragile and therefore, so very precious. Six months of tears. Six months of laughter and sunshine. Six months of treasuring the greatest of all blessings, that thing we call time.
Six months of you.