I returned to the hospital on Sunday after a couple of days in Maine. Reports from Bill over the weekend were good. Ky had resumed eating and, though tired and sleeping a lot, he was doing better.
But when I walked in and looked at Ky, I was taken aback. It took me a millisecond to realize something was off. Ky lost the hair on his head exactly ten days after his first chemo treatment began in May, like clockwork – exactly when we were told he would. But his eyelashes hung on valiantly, until this weekend.
Ky’s eyelashes were gorgeous. Ridiculously long, they were known to occasionally get in the way of his vision. From the time he started walking, those eyelashes were a magnet for people’s commentary. All agreed they were beautiful, but their path to that was a little different. Some would declare them a total waste on a boy, others commented that they were impressively long, and still others couldn’t get over how beautiful they are. For my part, I loved them. Ky could work his eyes and eyelashes in such a way that it would be hard to stay mad, stay strong or firm. Ky and his eyelashes were a mighty combination for this mama. They were a piece of what made Ky…Ky. And now, they’re scarce. To most, Ky losing that many of his eyelashes is akin to a woman suddenly not wearing mascara; it doesn’t freak a person out necessarily, it just sort of throws them off a bit – makes you think they’re a little more tired. But to his mama, who has spent the better part of his life being sure of him by looking into his eyes, especially these last few months, it was another bit of Ky that cancer had changed, even temporarily. I spent last night reminding myself, over and over, “They’re just eyelashes, Binaca…get over it…” and I know it’s true. The problem is…I can’t. Or I couldn’t.
Then I walked by a room that seemed to have an abrupt name change on the door over the weekend. I didn’t know the little boy – patients here don’t really leave their rooms – but I had spoken with his mama a few times in the kitchen; we’d exchanged smiles at 3 a.m. meetings at the Keurig machine. It occurred to me late in the day today that I hadn’t seen her at all since I’d been back. Maybe he’d gone home…or been moved to another floor…but in a place where codes aren’t quiet and crash carts dot the hallways, I find it hard to have faith in that.
Perspective is an awful, beautiful thing. It’s the delicate balance between being swallowed whole by the grief I feel because my child, the boy who first made me a mama, has cancer (even typing that line brings tears to my eyes – 12 weeks of living this and I still haven’t fully accepted it) – and seeing the beauty in every single victory that he works so hard to claim. It’s watching him ache for his papa, his sister, his friends, his cats and knowing, without a doubt, that this is where we need to be, this is the work he has to do right now. Perspective is missing his eyelashes, even temporarily, but knowing that, with or without them, he’s still right here to bat his eyes at me.
Today, perspective feels like the difference between having what you know and knowing what you have.