Cancer and COVID-19
Some things about the COVID-19 pandemic have reminded me of a diagnosis of cancer, such as how life is normal and then all of the sudden it isn’t; how every area of a person’s life, from finances to mental health to relationships, is affected; how some will sadly not survive; and how long it goes on with the continual thoughts about when it will be over.
Considering these things reminded me of a journal entry I wrote at the end of Peyton’s cancer treatment. The ending of Peyton’s treatment and his stepping back into life without the constant focus on treating cancer was something that I longed to journal about. I remember wondering What would I write about? What would I mention is the focus of our lives when it’s that time?
The following is an excerpt from what I journaled when the end of Peyton’s treatment finally came. I wrote it on his Caringbridge page in part as a thank you to all who supported and loved Peyton. It is a tribute to the power of encouragement, the giving that sustains in hardships, and the vital role of imagination in compassion.
I hope that it will embolden others during this similarly challenging time.
Encouragement and Paying It Forward
February 14, 2014
During Peyton’s infusion last month in the clinic he met a nervous 14 year-old boy that has a long way to go still in treatment. He asked Peyton all sorts of questions and Peyton answered frankly, but with encouragement.
I remember the comfort it brought us to meet someone who was near the end of their treatment, who shared frankly and with encouragement. I remember at times being surprised at how great our need was for encouragement. I am certain now that it takes courage to encourage another when you know exactly what that person is enduring. There is a real concern of how they might take what you say depending on what state they are in, but you must encourage anyway because you know how much it helped you. Encouragement is about acknowledging and expressing to another person that they are inherently strong and beautiful and capable of enduring and reminding them of that, because when you are downtrodden with the treatment’s effects, it can be easy to forget those really important truths about yourself. We want you to know that we have thought about your encouraging words to Peyton over the years. Thank you for teaching Peyton through your encouragement how important it is to be there in that way for others.
Peyton Visits CureSearch
I will always remember the look on Peyton’s face this past Wednesday when we met with CureSearch. The meeting with them was so special and I was so happy for Peyton to be able to have that experience at the end of it all. Peyton was presented with a framed certificate for his “Fundraising Achievement” through Peyton’s Potion, was given a CureSearch t-shirt and had a picture taken of him wearing it with a CureSearch representative.They shared with us the ways in which research in the field of childhood cancer is progressing. It was one of the coolest moments ever for Peyton to have CureSearch expressing thanks for being part of finding cures in hopes that other children will make it through their cancer treatments too! Thank you for your support and excitement for Peyton’s Potion because it was the biggest part of making it possible for Peyton to be able to give as he wanted to to CureSearch.
Compassion and Imagination
I remember just two weeks before Peyton was diagnosed, I donated to childhood leukemia for the very first time. I got a postcard in the mail, not just to donate to childhood cancer, but specifically for leukemia. I had never received a post card asking me to donate to childhood cancer before, nor have I since.
As I stared at the bald-headed child on the card, I remember imagining then, for the first time, how extremely sad that would be if one of my children was diagnosed with leukemia. I knew basically nothing about leukemia then. It still gives me chills to think that as I was writing out a check to give a donation and contemplating what it might be like for a child to have cancer, Peyton’s bone marrow was already full of leukemia cells. Do you remember the very first time your heart turned to children with cancer? Was it when you heard about Peyton’s diagnosis? If so, then thank you because we know imagining children dealing with cancer is a sad thing to think about. But you did. So often I heard the words “I can’t imagine…” I can’t imagine what Peyton is going through. But I think people, even as they are saying that, are revealing that they have already given way to imagining. Compassion always follows imagining. So thank you for the compassion you showed Peyton and our family as you followed one child’s long journey through cancer.
To express how I feel at the end of Peyton’s cancer treatment I'll paraphrase author Anne Lamott,
Jess is Peyton’s mom and co-founder of Peyton’s Potion. She is a Life Story journal writer and storyteller. Jess has been keeping journals since she first learned to write. Her journal entries throughout Peyton’s cancer treatment were also posted regularly on caringbridge.org.