For three years, I have had it wrong. For three years, until today, I somehow believed my son’s diagnosis anniversary was the 21st of August. This year, as with the past three, I have been dreading this date, and I spent some time today wondering how I might feel approaching my son’s fifth diagnosis anniversary. But then a Facebook memory popped up today, a blog post from four years ago about the first anniversary. On the 20th.
I combed back through old blogs. I looked at a calendar from 2012. I sat in disbelief, so utterly confused in my mind and my heart because the fact is, we learned my son had leukemia five years ago today. Five years ago today we took that ambulance ride to UCSF and had our first sit-down in a late-night hospital hallway. Five years ago today, my blood ran cold in a way I never knew it could, and I shook, hard, as I signed waivers and permissions and watched my son, wondering if he would survive. How could I ever forget this day? Jodi reminded me that there was little sleep that night, that one day bled into the next, that dates on paperwork probably stated the 21st, but still I’m baffled because here I am, a little blindsided yet again by one of the worst days of my life.
And now we are five years on. Tomorrow, the day I thought for three years was D-Day, a large swath of the U.S. will experience a total eclipse of the sun. I was listening to an interview with an anthropologist about the eclipse the other day, and she asked the audience to imagine what it must have been like for indigenous Americans out on the plains hundreds of years ago, seeing what appeared to be a hole opening up in the sky where the sun once was, watching their worlds go black for a few minutes only to see the sun return, their worlds gradually return to normal, only with the added knowledge that their sun could be swallowed up at any time, and they would be powerless to it.
You never forget the day a hole opens up in the sky and swallows the sun. You never forget the day that everything changes in an instant without any warning, and you never return from such an experience the same.
I know far too many cancer moms now, so many whose kids have died and many whose kids have survived, and for every last one of us, regardless of outcome, diagnosis day is the day the earth turned dark, the day we learned that a hole can open up in the sky, and we are powerless to change it.
How I remembered that day incorrectly sometime a couple of years out, I’ll never know, and I know dates don’t really matter. It’s the feeling of it, the changing of the light, the start of school, the lengthening of shadows, the nearing of his birthday, the pit in my stomach; they’re all signs, aren’t they?
Five years ago today, I drove my son to the ER. I watched him get his first IV. I sat with him as an ambulance drove us across the Golden Gate Bridge, and into the children’s hospital and up to 7-Long where the hematology and oncology team awaited our arrival. Five years ago, that hole opened up in my sky, and for five and a half months it got bigger and darker and scarier than I ever imagined it could. Five years today marks the beginning of Caemon’s end, the day that cast a permanent shadow across my heart.