When I started blogging, the only people who read this were relatives, so I didn't have to worry about what was appropriate to post and what wasn't. Now, I can see from my stats page that people across the globe read this - not tons of people, mind you, but these are clearly people I don't know. I also see that I have quite a few readers here in Amman.
Because of this, I struggle sometimes with what's okay to write about. I don't want to invade anyone else's privacy with any of my stories. But some stories cry out to be told.
That said, I need to write this down, because it's eating me alive. If there is anyone out there reading who is somehow involved in these stories and doesn't like what they're reading, please, contact me and I'll edit this post accordingly.
We've had all sorts of medical stories coming home from school with the boys. First there was the kid who fractured his arm when he was walking backwards and tripped. Then it was head lice in one son's class. Last week, the school sent home a message saying a case of H1N1 had been diagnosed in my son's class. I wondered: Could it get any worse?
Yes. Yes, it could. It did.
When Aidan came home and told me that one of his friends left Jordan "for a long time" to see the doctor, I just shrugged it off. Kids leave all the time, for consults or surgeries or even dental issues, and they usually reappear eventually. Besides, "a long time" could mean anything from a week to a year when you're a kid.
But a few days later, he came home talking of how they wrote notes to his friend during class.
And then yesterday, he came home with his big brother, who told me the teachers explained that the boy will "have to take medicine for six months, and his hair will fall out, and then he'll come back to school."
He has cancer.
And he's only seven tiny years old.
This clearly isn't my story to tell. I don't know the parents, though I know of them. I know the boy through the stories Aidan tells of their playground adventures. He's a beautiful big-eyed boy, and his whole world has just changed.
The family left post in search of treatment, leaving behind kids who want to know what cancer is, and parents who want to cover our ears and pretend we never heard this tale.
Having a sick child is even worse when you're overseas. Because, you understand, you have to leave home to try to find help for your baby. And you have to leave your job. When we were posted in Kazakhstan and Aidan got sick, we left, and we never went back. Bart was lucky that he works for the USG, because he knew he'd be able to keep his job, if not his assignment. A sick child in the Foreign Service changes everything - you can't bid on the same jobs, which affects your promotability. You have to cobble together sick leave, or family leave, or vacation days, while you try to figure out what's going to happen. You have to take whatever assignment they offer - usually nothing good, because those positions were all filled during bidding. If the child is sick enough, you can't go anywhere at all - for awhile Aidan was "Class V," which meant he - and we - couldn't leave the States. So you have no home, no job, no routine, and usually, no support network of friends in this awful new place where you've landed.
This family isn't Foreign Service, so I don't know what happens to their jobs. Hopefully the jobs - and the accompanying health insurance - stay while they are gone. But I know they must be thinking about their future, both in terms of their son's health and in terms of their careers.
I've known so many parents who've faced tragedy overseas. Friends have lost babies at birth, or watched as their kids had life-saving heart surgery, or brain surgery. I've known kids who've been misdiagnosed because of poor medical care at post, losing valuable time to fight their illnesses.
But I cannot - cannot - come to grips with this. From everything I've seen and heard, this boy is a sweet-tempered, smart, friendly little guy, and I just ache for his family, having to go through this.
So - pray hard for the family, please. Pray for their son, that he does, indeed, emerge from the other end of this healthy, and whole, and back again playing with his friends at school. With or without his hair - but definitely without his cancer.