Tuesday, February 1, 2011


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.



Just US said... [Reply]

Thank you for posting this story. We will be sure to pray for this tender young child and his family. Hopefully they will be watched over and protected during this crazy time.

Betsy said... [Reply]

I will definitely be praying for this family. My children have a serious, chronic illness, but unlike cancer, there is little chance it will be fatal. I know that cancer is a whole different ballgame, and made even harder with their being overseas.

I was thinking about all of you too as I watched the news this a.m.

Daniela Swider said... [Reply]

Oh, having a sick child has to be one of the hardest things for a person to endure. The disease being cancer and the family living overseas must make things infinitely more complicated. My heart goes out to that family and I sincerely hope their boy beats cancer!!!

I too have been thinking about you and the other families in the Middle East while following the events there. I hope you are all safe!!!

The Blonde Duck said... [Reply]

That poor child.

Becky said... [Reply]

How heartbreaking. Ditto to all said above.

Sara said... [Reply]

Hi from Mexico. This post brings tears and memories. I just hope the family has the best health care available to them like we thankfully did.

ForeignObsession said... [Reply]

Definitely praying...I cannot even being to imagine...

Elaine said... [Reply]

One thing I can assure you: even in a strange place, that family will find they have stepped into a support group. Parents really do reach out to one another in so many ways in settings like children's hospitals. That family is definitely in for some hard days, so I hope they learn that a lot of perfect strangers are thinking about them all and pulling for them.

fourmommy17 said... [Reply]

It knocks the chair out from you doesn't it? My sons classmate/soccer teammate beat cancer last year. It was devastating for all of us!! We parents were upset but our kids were terrified. So we talked, individually and as a group. We let them ask any questions they could think of. As the friends's beautiful blonde hair started to fall out in clumps we got together and had a head shaving party...it started with the soccer team and within a week almost all the boys in school were sporting the bald look...and the kids in town from kindergarden to high school were wearing "team Zack" t shirts! What a solid amazing lesson in compassion and love for our kids!

Sara said... [Reply]

What a horrible thing for that child and especially those parents. I don't even want to imagine what they're going through. I'm definitely praying, for the boy, his family, his friends who don't quite understand, and their parents who don't quite know how to explain.

Connie said... [Reply]

We know his mom more than the child. They are a beautiful family and this was a terrible shock. We are praying for him.

Please. Write your own stuff.