The Pursuit of Normal
"What are these two bumps on the front of her?"
Eli was thoroughly inspecting one of his favorite new toys. Jason's folks had scoured the Greater Dallas Area in search of a Wonder Woman action figure... procuring Wonder Woman Collector's Edition Barbie instead.
Wonder Woman Barbie has it all. The Shield. The Sword. The Golden Lasso of Truth.
"Ummm...those are part of her Super Hero uniform."
That works. After all, he's only three.
Recently there was a discussion in one of my breast cancer support groups about navigating daughters through puberty. And although that is (thankfully) years in the future for us, I can't help but wonder. Will I remember to prepare them, emotionally and logistically, for their monthly cycle when I haven't had mine in years? Will they be comfortable talking with me about breast development and bras when they have no memory of me with my own? Will they be embarrassed of me...my body, my lymphedema sleeve...at school activities?
Will they wish for a normal mom?
Occasionally I'm hit with these waves of idealizing Normal. Oddly enough, our Great Pyrenees rescue, Ruby, is to blame...errrrr, thank...for the present wave.
We adore her, but it turns out we have inherited a host of untreated medical issues. So we collaborate with her veterinarian (AKA my NewBestFriend) to diagnose and treat these in order of severity. And in the mean time, Ruby rests. And rests. And rests.......
Ruby is resting.... When Ruby is better she will play with us....
Hearing these comments from my children, who only recently spent a year hearing and saying the exact same things about their own Mama during chemotherapy and recovery, has been hard. Like hard hard.
So I did what any rational Mom would do.
Bought them a puppy.
(If my mom is reading this post, she is probably choking on her coffee and planning an intervention by this point...)
We drove two hours to Walla Walla to adopt Mimi, a lab mix, from the shelter there. It turns out she had a lot more mix than lab, and had intense herding instincts. She was super mouthy, nipping non stop at all of us, particularly Eli. Ultimately, the kids cowered on the sofa or hid in their rooms with the doors closed, screaming and crying "Take her back! Take her back!"
Mimi lived in the Pink Door House for about 16 hours.
We found a lovely (childless) couple in Soap Lake, who work from home, to offer her all of the love and training she needs.
Adopting a puppy was a decision driven by guilt and impulse. In the end, the consequences weren't serious. We wasted a bit of time and money. But most importantly, none of our children were actually hurt, and Mimi ended up in a safe and loving home. The entire family has a greater appreciation for our loving, mellow Ruby.
It was a reminder to me that Normal can't be bought in a store.
Or rescued from a shelter.
For the year 2015, Inflammatory Breast Cancer wrote our story. That chapter can't be erased. And now, with several weekly medical appointments, lifelong maintenance therapy, and side effects like lymphedema, IBC remains a main character.
I have to try and accept that we can't offer our kids Normal. Jason frequently reminds me that this is our Normal. With that, I can hope that we teach them to face challenges with grace and tenacity. That we role model "For Better or For Worse." That they learn to find joy in everyday moments.
Every six months I am scanned for reoccurrence of my cancer. Each clear scan is a small promise that I will continue to survive. That I will have the privilege of embarrassing my children through puberty, possibly beyond.
And in the end, I suppose there is something genuinely Normal about that.