Ronan. This is all too much. The Holiday Cards are coming in the mail. I have brought myself to open the ones that have come, only they make me sick to my stomach. Which in turn, makes me feel like a bad person. But I throw up anyway. What do I expect? To I see a picture on the card of an unhappy family? To see a picture on the card with a bald baby who has cancer? To see a picture on the card, that tells the real story of what is going on in the happy families lives? To see the picture of the family like us?? No. The stories on all the holiday cards, tell the same story. Perfect story book life. Beautiful families. Glossy hair. Whiter than white teeth. Perfectly dressed. Happy. Healthy. No worries. No stress. No fighting. No tears. No 3 year old child, who died from cancer. A fairy tale. Some come with a story such as, “Our Year Summed Up in 2011.” They say things like, “Johnny graduated high school, Summa Cum Laude! He is off to Harvard next, where he plans on becoming a doctor. Susie, our oldest daughter, is engaged! The wedding will be in Hawaii, Spring 2012. Bob ran his 5th Marathon and is retiring next year. I, myself am keeping busy with all of our healthy perfect grandchildren!” No problems exist in these letters. It is the fluffiest of the fluff. I would like to hear a real story, for once. It would be, refreshing.
Maybe I will send out a holiday letter this year. I’ve never done it in the past, but there’s a first time for everything, right?? Maybe I will send out a real holiday letter with a real picture on the front of it. It will be a picture of our family. All broken and black. Sitting around your Urn, holding your GiGi and Captain Rex. We will not smile in the picture as the fakeness cannot hide what truly exists. An ocean tide of sadness, only to fall into a black abyss. What will the letter say??? This holiday letter of 2011. How do you put into words, how your world has been shattered?? As nothing else matters. Let’s start off by telling the truth. The truth of this ugly thing called cancer that took you and your little life as fast as can be. But oh no! It didn’t happen! Because cancer cannot be! It cannot exist in the lives of those so perfect and true. It cannot exist because there was you. I’ll tell this holiday story of 2011. But friends be warned, it is not going to end up with Ronan in heaven. For those of you, offended and hurt, please take a moment and stop your words. For this is my story and it is not yours to tell. Sit back, shut up, and be prepared to go to hell. Because if a hell truly does exist, it is here, it is now, it is living this life as a bereaved mommy and daddy. Not knowing what to do during this holiday season, where the Christmas carols are cruel, where the blinking lights on the decorated houses only bring tears of sadness, not of joy. Because everywhere you look, you are reminded of what is missing….. the one thing that was true. So here we go, little Holiday Card of 2011. If I had my way, we would bypass straight through this day. Fast forward but to what? You aren’t coming back. So here I sit, preparing for this season. Forgive me if I am not shouting, “Merry Christmas!” from my rooftop. I will be the one at the top, shouting, “Fuck you cancer!” instead.
The Thompson Family 2011
Our year was off to a wonderful start. We spent the first few months, with Liam and Quinn finishing up kindergarten. Woody is loving life as an attorney and being the father to 3 boys. Maya kept busy taking care of the boys and chasing after Ronan, who is more than a handful but in the best way possible as she enjoys every minute of him. We spent part of the summer in San Diego, taking a break from the Arizona heat. Maya, Liam, Quinn, and Ronan then headed back the small town, where she was raised to spend a few weeks with her family. She and the boys spent time in Washington State, swimming in rivers, picking berries, exploring caves, fishing, and enjoying nature and the simpleness of life. They returned back to Arizona as the school year was approaching. Ronan’s little left eye started to look droopy. We took him to the doctor. We took him to two Ophthalmologists. We took him to Phoenix Children’s Hospital. He had an MRI. He had a CT scan. The news was not good. We were met by an Oncologist. Your child has cancer. We went into shock. What do you mean, our child has cancer? Our perfectly healthy little boy, who has just spent the entire summer, running around as if he were the healthiest child on earth? But he was not as cancer had invaded his entire body. He not only had cancer, but Stage IV cancer and it was very aggressive. We researched our options. We started treatment. Our perfect little life, was turned upside down within minutes. Everything changed. People swooped in to help. So many beautiful people. The twins were forced into a new reality. All they had ever known was a happy, safe, loving house. It was now all taken away and Maya and Ronan spent months living in and out of the hospital. Quinn asked us, his parents….” Is Ronan going to die?” We both just looked at him, shocked. Of course not, Quinny. We have the best doctors taking care of him. He is going to be fine. We both believed this. Ronan. Have you met our Ronan, you asshole cancer? He is the toughest boy out there. He never cries over a thing. He never takes no for an answer. He is beyond strong. You don’t stand a chance. Look how well he is responding to treatment! The chemo is working! Now it’s off to New York, to get the base tumor out of him, by the BEST surgeon they say. We all spent the holidays, together in New York. It was beautiful. Ronan was getting better. Ronan was happy. We were all together and that was all that mattered. Surgery was a huge success! Ronan did great. He was up and walking around, in no time. We told you, cancer didn’t stand a chance. It was time to return back to Phoenix. Our last round of chemo, or so we thought. One more round, than scans were next. We couldn’t wait to see Ronan’s progress. Ronan made progress indeed, but it was not what we had hoped. Too much cancer was still left. The stem cell transplant that we had hoped for, was a joke. Time to make a new plan. A better one, right? Because the option of cancer winning, was not a possibility. Maya, Woody and Ronan all flew to San Francisco, Philadelphia, and then to New York. Let’s do another round of chemo, and then it’s off to the Big Apple. Where dreams come true and the city where Ronan will get better. Another round of chemo in Phoenix. Off to New York. Ronan’s leg is hurting. The cancer is getting worse. We started him on radiation, to make the pain subside. Our little brave 3-year-old, left in a cold room. Alone. 14 rounds of radiation. No sedation necessary. We would kiss his little pouty lip, give him his pistol and Captain Rex. We would leave his side while he tried to be brave but we saw the little tears as they slid down his cheeks. We watched our little boy, on the other side of the wall as the radiation would start. We talked into a microphone. “We love you, buddy. We’re so proud of you. You are brave and strong. Hold still. 10 more minutes! We love you, Ronan.” He would lay there, so stoic and still. Braver than most men, 3 times his age. We started another chemo. ICE as they called it. A mixture of poison, he had never seen before. It was sure to work. We finished the round. It wiped out his immune system. Inpatient at Sloan for 23 days. The time passed so quickly. We had a ball. Forget we were stuck in a hospital. Forget it all. Pistols were shot. Costumes were worn. Books were read. Cuddles were had. We made the best of each and everyday. We were just so thankful, to be together. Scans were next. Let’s see what this ICE can do! Dr. Brian Kushner…. is ready to speak to you. Guess what he said? He didn’t have to say it at all. His eyes told the story, of Ronan’s cancer and all. Back to Phoenix with Ronan we returned. We’re not giving up as we watched the others, walk away. There is still HOPE! He is so feisty, today! Let’s fly back to Philly! Dr. Mosse is there. She will help us and it will all be o.k. I’m so sorry, she told us… there is nothing I can do. Back to AZ, not willing to accept defeat. But now, Ronan is not getting better and all he wants to do, is sleep. Hospice is here, at my lovely house. Get those people out of here Maya says to Woody…. it is not time for him to go. Get us to San Diego, it’s time to put on a show. Before San Diego, a little stop we must make. At a place called The Ryan House, a place that is safe. Ronan is hurting, his pain is out of control. These people can help him, until we can get him better…. radiation we will start. Again.”Rub my leg, mama.” So Maya does. She spends a week, rubbing Ronan’s leg until it was too cold to rub. Lots of people came by. But for what? Not to say goodbye? Ronan is going to be fine. He’s just tired, you’ll see. Once we get him to San Diego…. he’ll start to feel better and get a fresh start. But Ronan’s not walking, eating or drinking. More Ativan is given. Keep him comfortable. Tell him all the things you want to say. Tell him how it’s time to stop fighting, it’s time to let go. His little body has had too much…. it’s time to go. His little eyes, give one last flutter. His lips are kissed, he is bathed and redressed. The gurney is here, to take him to rest. Promises are made, ones that you will keep. Or so you say. It is now something that we have to remind ourselves of, everyday. For our lives have stopped, but for others they go on. All while this peaceful earth, is without our little Ronan Sean. Birthdays come, Halloween too. Thanksgiving has passed and now at last, the biggest holiday of all. One where millions of HAPPY HOLIDAY cards, will be sent out to all. Did you get ours this year?? Oh, you did not?? I’m so sorry. It must have gotten lost. Lost in the shuffle of our new, lovely life. One that is filled with sadness and despair. Happiness exists for those to see. But have you taken a good, hard look into our eyes?? If so, you know the truth. Our eyes will never be the same, that is so easy to see. The world didn’t stop the day our baby died…. but for us it did. We are all hurting and so scared inside.
Oh, 2011… what a year, indeed! We hope next year, will be a bit better. But living life, without our Ronan seems like a sick joke. So, please forgive us if this Holiday Card comes off quite brass and rude. For this is our life and HAPPYHOLIDYSMERRYCHRISTMASLOVEJOYPEACEONEARTHHAPPYHANUKKAHFESIVUSFORTHERESTOFUS does not exist this year.
And cancer, can fuck off. But peace on earth!!!!!!!!!!!
The Thompson Family
Maya, Woody, Liam, Quinn, and RONAN. Always Ronan.