This is not an op ed I want to write, but, like some of my pieces, it has a mind of its own.
I now find myself the loving grandmother of a child with leukemia, and not just the standard kind, but a highly rare version with at least three mutations. So impressed are the doctors around the country with this condition that some of the leading pediatric oncologists have become part of Daniel’s informal consultative committee because of the novelty of the situation (and because they’re really nice people).
Over the past six weeks, I have seen some of the best — and worst — of the human condition. Actually, there’s only one “worst” — the fact that a 10-year-old is subject to such a horrible disease, receiving painful spinal injections, undergoing chemo, and facing imminent radiation and a bone marrow transplant.
While the good things definitely outweigh the bad, in terms of numbers, I’d trade them all for his health. Still, given the circumstances, we can only thank God that goodness still prevails.
Good thing #1: His 8-year-old brother is more than happy to be the stem cell donor so he can “fix” his brother. (And it should be him, said the 10-year-old. After all, “He’s my best friend.”)
Good thing #2: His parents are towers of strength — his mom calling doctors around the country, researching every aspect of the illness so she can understand what the doctors propose to do and ask the necessary questions; both of them trying as best as they can to keep life normal for their other four children; working 24/7 to ensure that everyone’s needs are met under unbelievably hard circumstances (they actually worked on Purim costumes); and putting aside their strong sense of dignity and privacy to accept help.
Good thing #3: My sons are taking this personally, as if it were their own children; with one driving in from out of state more than once just to bring some bad jokes to his sick nephew while visiting with him outdoors, and working with his sister to establish a funding campaign. The other ensures that his children do daily FaceTime visits with their cousin (two of them having bonded over Harry Potter).
Good thing #4: Jewish charitable organizations have been superb. A special call-out to Chai Lifeline, which even remembered to give the four siblings mishloach manot packages to distribute to their friends; and to the children’s school, which has made major financial accommodations. And, of course, todah rabbah to friends who cook and drive carpools and would do more if they could.
When do I cry? When my daughter breaks down and reflects on the seriousness of the situation. When she looks at the formerly most mischievous of her kids, captain of his soccer team, and sees how hard he has to work just to move from one place to another. But I do it secretly. I see my role as sounding board and cheerleader, and cheerleaders don’t cry.
I’ve saved the best for last.
Good thing #5: Daniel is still smiling. He still has faith; he still says, “How are you?” to his cousins; he still groans at his uncle’s bad jokes, and he still studies with his rebbe every day on the phone.
Right now, he is the strongest one of all. May he enjoy a long, happy, and healthy life.
Lois Goldrich of Fair Lawn is, among other things, an editor emerita of the Jewish Standard.