Tonight's picture was taken in February of 2009. This photo I realize may need explanation because at first glance you are most likely confused by what you are seeing. Dressed in a yellow gown, blue mask, and pink basin on her head was Linda, Mattie's Childlife Specialist. Looking at Linda were Mattie and Anna (Mattie's physical therapist). What was happening was a show down with water guns. Linda was dressed up in this get-up to inspire Mattie to shoot her with water. She was very successful. Certainly Anna could have just assigned Mattie exercises to do with his arms to try to strengthen them after his limb salvaging surgeries. But both she and Linda knew this would never have worked for Mattie. Mattie needed to be stimulated and engaged, and through these interactions he landed up exercising and getting rehabilitated. Physical therapy was painful and hard for Mattie, most likely not only because he had surgeries and was undergoing chemotherapy, but because unbeknownst to us, his cancer was aggressively spreading all over his body. When I think back on what we asked Mattie to do, he amazes me. Since most of us wouldn't have even gotten out of bed if we felt the way he did.
Quote of the day: The door of opportunity won't open unless you do some pushing. ~ Anonymous
Christine (my friend) has been trying to introduce me to her friend for months. Today, thanks to some "pushing" as the quote implies, I had the opportunity to have breakfast with Christine and meet her friend. Her friend is a parent at Mattie's school, who read my blog while Mattie was battling cancer. We had never met before today since her son is a year younger than Mattie. However, like me this woman has an only child, who is a son. In addition, she is a mental health professional as well, and these two commonalities just really caught my attention. Christine's son, Campbell, and Mattie were very close friends in kindergarten and in some respects I am happy to hear that Campbell was able to make another special connection with this lady's son.
We talked about all sorts of things at breakfast and I had the opportunity to reflect on what life was like living in the hospital for 14 months. Rarely do people reflect on this aspect of my life anymore, nor do they talk to me about it and ask me questions. I am not sure why? Perhaps those days are viewed to be in the past, or maybe because they were so horrible then, that people do not want to resurrect the pain. Nonetheless, talking about that time in the hospital is real. It is a part of who I am, and when I see the reactions on the faces I am telling my stories to, I then realize and understand that.... yes this indeed was a nightmare and it gives me insights to why I feel the way I do on certain days. I had the opportunity to retell some of my experiences with doctors, radiology techs, and pre-surgery meetings. For me no matter how much time lapses, I can recall the stories and the scenes like they happened yesterday.
I was telling these ladies today about one of the techs at Georgetown University Hospital. This particular tech I found out disliked Mattie. She found him to be spoiled and difficult, and really disliked coming to his room to give him mobile x-rays (at 2am no less!). She felt he was spoiled because he got a lot of attention from other hospital personnel and she felt it was not merited. As Mattie's status turned terminal, this same tech happened to see Mattie toward the end stages of his life, and she was mortified by what she saw. By that point Mattie was ravaged by cancer and was having trouble breathing. Mattie died a horrific death, death by suffocation in a way. Make a long story short, after seeing what Mattie endured, she reflected on his time at the hospital, and felt deep remorse. I was told that she felt horrible guilt for being so judgmental. Though I was saddened to hear all of this, it is my hope that she gained some perspective from Mattie, and will never be harboring these feelings toward another sick child again.
Christine's friend and I talked about the benefits of therapy and therapy for dealing with grief in particular. I suppose one of the downfalls about being a mental health professional, is I am quite aware of what therapy can and can't do. I know in my particular case NOTHING and NO ONE can possibly repair the reason for my loss, therefore I believe I have to process this and handle this in my own way and time. As Christine's friend said to me today... "you know too much." She had my laughing, but in a way she is right, knowledge in a particular field can sometimes provide greater challenges than benefits.
I spent the rest of the day immersed in Foundation items, jumping from Walk related items to Symposium related items, and then to conference calls. I had the pleasure of talking to my friend and colleague, Denise, today about the symposium. She brainstormed some symposium ideas with me, and I appreciated hearing her insights and strategies for marketing the symposium to the community. It is my hope within the next week or so to finalize aspects of the symposium so we can begin advertising it and getting the word out.