We cannot direct the wind but we can adjust the sails. - Author Unknown
When I was four years old I went up to a dog that was blind in one eye. The dog became afraid and attacked me. My dad came running and lifted me up into his arms. I had been clawed in the head so there was blood everywhere. Blood drained from me – but it looked like it was draining from my father. He was white and I could feel him shaking as he ran. I thought he might be crying.
I started to scream like crazy, “I want my Mommmmm.” My mom pulled me into her lap as we drove to the hospital. She had placed a washcloth on my head and sang to me. My mother had a beautiful voice – a deep, cigarette, raspy voice and she had a Georgian southern drawl. Her voice always sounded like it had been asleep under many blankets and she was waking it up as she spoke.
When we arrived at the hospital the nurse went to get “the jacket” I would wear why they stitched me up. My mother realized they used a straight jacket: this used to be used in psych wards so patients couldn’t hurt themselves. It zipped the person’s arms to them so they could not move. Sort of like wrapping them up as a human sandwich wrap, except with zippers on all the open spaces.
“No,” my mother said.
The doctor explained that this was “hospital policy” and what they did with all children getting stitches. He said I would need many stitches (37 in all) in two places on my head both in my hair line and one very close to the side of my face and that my movement could scar me in a terrible way.
My mom said, “Now doctor, I know you know your work. But, I know my child. She will do as I tell her. Let me go in with you as you stitch her up. If it doesn’t work my way we will try your way.”
Because she was one of the most difficult people I have ever met to say no to, the doctor agreed. She spoke calmly and plainly to me. She said the doctor would sew my head. I remembered my surprise.
“Really? I thought you could only sew doll clothes.”
She said: “It will tug a bit, and hurt some, but I will be right here. You must stay very still and I know you will because you are my brave girl.”
Well, that is my first vivid memory – at least I think so. It’s hard to know because I dubbed this the “Amy Is Brave” story and I asked my mom to tell it often.
I was reminded of this memory when I heard about Georgia Wettergren.
In April 2011, nearly four years after she successfully battled her first bout of leukemia, nine-year-old Georgia learned that the disease had returned. Georgia is currently in the midst of two and a half years of chemotherapy with 15 months left to go, visiting Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence at least two to three times a week.
Apparently she continues to have a strong plucky spirit in the face of cancer.
Now that is brave.
When I heard this story I knew I’d write about it and I thought I might begin with “Cancer Sucks.” I didn’t because apparently that is the quote of Georgia’s mom – Jennifer.
She is right and wise to tell the truth when the stakes are high with her child. I admire this very much. The cancer treatment expenses are enormous. In 2007 there were 10,400 children a under the age of 15 fighting cancer. Georgia is one of many, many brave kids. I appreciate a few things about Georgia and her family. That they keep at the fight with a positive attitude – and a real one. Like cancer does suck and it in her sensible Mom-ness Ms. Jennifer Wettergren has found a way to be wry with her daughter (they call the first diagnosis the “crap-a-versary”). I appreciate when people are awake and present to life’s challenges without over-simplifying the crap of it.
I have no idea why a child has cancer. I wouldn’t even insult Georgia by venturing a guess. I think why just makes everyone all crazy. What I do know is that how she has fought the disease is remarkable and that makes me glad she is a member of my community.
Friends of the Wettergren family are organizing a kickball tournament (called Kicking Cancer for Georgia) for June 17, with proceeds benefiting Georgia’s second fight against leukemia along with Rhode Island-based A Wish Come True Foundation.
Event organizers are hoping that the community will come out to the event, which coincides with the 27th Annual Father’s Day Classic Soccer Tournament. The kickball games will run between noon and 3 p.m. down at Ryan Park. Drinks and food will be served and the Y On the Move van from the West Bay YMCA will be on hand.
I will be there although I was only the scorekeeper in sixth grade kickball because I lack athletic prowess completely. I will attend.
I do not know Georgia – but I do think it is sort of strange that her name is the state my mom grew up in.
One last thing. You may be wondering… wasn’t I so terrified of dogs after the incident in my childhood? No, I wasn’t and I think it’s because of my mom. She was pragmatic.
She said: “The dog was on a chain. You went up to it without asking. It was blind and you scared it, but many dogs are kind and great.” Basically she was saying “Bad things happen. So adjust, learn – and be brave.” Oh, and in the case of the straight jacket and few zillion other things, sometimes you fight for what is right.
My mom died of complications due to lung cancer 10 years ago in August. She would have thought Georgia was one cool brave chick and so do I.
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