I remember the exact moment my teenage daughter became my hero. She had already been through brain surgery, 33 radiation treatments, and several MRIs. She had begun an oral chemotherapy protocol where she took a dose of a drug called Temodar for five days out of each month. She had to swallow five large capsules (what I would call "horse pills") each night before bed. The next morning, she would usually wake up very sick, and then remain drained of energy all day. I would watch her take those pills, one at a time, and wonder how she could do it. How can you force yourself to swallow something that you know is going to make you so sick...and not just once, but five times...and for five days in a row? I distinctly remember watching her one evening, taking one pill after another, very matter-of-factly and without complaint, and thinking for the first time, "She is my hero." Taking those pills was really a small thing, in light of all she went through during the year of her illness, but to me it was heroic.
Last night, I looked back through some of the emails I was sending out last December. I was kind of surprised to be reminded that Hannah was going to school at this time last year. She had completed her radiation treatments at the end of October, and we were waiting for her blood counts to rise high enough to start chemotherapy. She was constantly battling morning nausea, but was determined to try to go to school...she didn't want to get too far behind. She had not attended school since September 26th, the day we found out that her cancer had returned. All those pills she had swallowed had not been effective...in fact, our oncologist said that the cancer "was laughing at the Temodar."
I remember dropping her off the first day she went back in December, and thinking how brave she was to walk into that building after being gone for so long, wearing a wig, face swollen from steroids, not knowing how people would react to her. That was another day when I was struck by her heroism. I wanted to walk in with her, holding her hand, like I did the first day of kindergarten. But what high school junior wants her mom to walk into school with her? And besides, I knew that her dad, the principal, was in there waiting for her. I remember driving away with a heavy heart, wondering if going to school really mattered...her prognosis did not give much hope for graduation.
But she was determined to go, and for the few days she attended in December, she did well. The first day she went back, her social studies class was reviewing for a test. She took the test the next day, and made a 100, never having studied the material. I've looked through some of the notes she took and work she did during those days, and it is heartbreaking to see her once beautiful handwriting appear so shaky and unsteady. She had always doodled in class, usually making elaborate designs and symmetrical patterns. She did some doodling during those days in class too, but it is messy and uneven. I wonder now...what did she really feel like at that time? How does it feel to know that you have tumors growing inside your brain and spinal cord? She really never talked much about what she was feeling, physically or emotionally. She was always very private...never one to share too much. As time passed and her motor skills deteriorated, gradually stealing her ability to walk, she told me one day, "I don't like being this way." That was it...that was her one complaint.
How did she do it? No one could do what she did in human strength alone. The only answer is her faith in God. She knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that this was His plan for her, and she accepted it without question. And that is why she is my hero.