Jun Dishes

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Pink Is For Girls, Pink Is For Boys

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Pink. It’s a color.

It’s just a color.

Pink is the color Noah decided was his “favorite color” about six months ago, not coincidentally, after learning that pink was also the favorite color of his friend Farah. So after obsessing about blue for months, Noah decided that blue was out and pink was in. And boy has it been IN.

But after all, it’s just a color, right?

More importantly, it’s the color of the friendship between Noah and Farah. Farah, who has come such a long way, in such a short amount of time, five months to be exact. In fact not so short for Farah or her baby sister or her parents, who probably feel like it’s been the longest five months of their lives together so far.

What have you done in the last five months? What have I done? And how could it compare to the ups and downs and emergency runs to the hospital that Farah has had to endure? The scares, the stares, the prayers and everything in between that rhymes or rhymes not.

I mean, really, what the fuck rhymes with chemotherapy?

And sure there were days that Farah’s mother Houda and her father Daan, thought, would just break them, but they didn’t, and today Farah is stronger than she has been in months. She and Noah were recently reunited on, and of all days, Valentine’s Day.

It’s as if this span of five months was a mere five days.

They played. They babbled. They picked up right where they’d left off. As it should be.

Farah, who could not pull herself and walk just a few months ago, was in fact walking and even chasing after Noah. My goodness. My shock and relief ran through my body…
Reunited

These two…

They even donned pink…they were a sight to behold, and it was pinkalicious and sweet as sweet could be.

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Sassy even…

Sass

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at first nervous as I was excited about reuniting these treasures once again. I had done my best to prepare Noah for the changes in Farah’s appearance, and to encourage him to ask questions of Farah but to remain as kind and as loving as he’d always been with her. And he did not disappoint. And neither did Farah. She was a fabulous host and she and Noah reconnected and bonded once more.

Their friendship proves over and over that children are the saviors of this cold and unrelentingly harsh world.

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These smiles.

These smiles can save souls that need saving the most. I wasn’t sure when Farah would be able to leave her home and go anywhere else but the hospital, but alas, after five months it’s a reality. Just last week we all piled into the car to attend a birthday party, that of their mutual friend Amélie.

And this Sunday Farah will be attending Noah’s fourth birthday party, and proving us all wrong. Strength comes from within. Strength lends a loving hand and lifts you up if you let it. All you have to do is let it.

Let it.

~

I’d like to thank everyone who has sent their love and good wishes and kind words of support during this experience so far. And special thanks to all of you who donated towards the Farah’s World gift list. We were able to collect so many snugly animal blankets, that Farah helped hand out to the brave little souls in the Children’s Cancer Ward at The University Hospital of Ghent.

It was a very special day, and a beautiful start to the new year…

FarahGifts

Below is the thank you card, and a drawing from one of the children (Pauline), from the Children’s Cancer Fund of Belgium.

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I cannot express in words how much I have grown and grown up these last five months, these last five years, and I thank you all for joining me along the way…

Farah’s journey has just begun and I’m proud to be riding her coattails and not floating…

Always dishing,

Jun

 

Confronting

Wishlist

Mama, that boy has girls’ shoes on.”

“No dear, that is a girl.”

“But she has no hair, like a boy.”

“Because she is also sick like you and she lost her hair. And you will lose yours too, like her one day, because that’s what will happen.”

“But Mama, I don’t want to lose all my hair.”

~

How is a mother to respond to such a plea?

And what of the angst, when this child pleas with her mother and father that she doesn’t want to feel the cold and relentless prick of a needle in her arm? That pain and discomfort, all too familiar now, as she endures such steps in this many years’ journey that has just begun. This little girl, so charming and so smart, as smart as a slap to the face of reality that so many lives have changed overnight. Because, that’s what really happens when cancer hits close to home. Maybe you have cancer now, or your spouse or child, or you had it or know someone who did, however close or far the relationship. Maybe I’m just late to writing about cancer, but as much of a challenge it is, it brings together people who truly care about people. People.

We lose people in the news headlines every day it seems, that it’s an everyday occurrence that social media is filled with loss every day. And then the countless lives lost that don’t even make it to the ugly pretty news. Lives that are never even mentioned but are lost all the same.

And somehow you forget or maybe overlook the little victories, about people who live and survive, like a beautiful little girl who is taking well to the chemotherapy and eating and enjoying all the things children are supposed to enjoy. She may look different on the outside but she is the same spritely and joyous soul in a little body. Davy and I got to spend some time last week with Noah’s friend, Farah. She is just short of two months into treatment for leukemia. I’ve written about her before, and her parents Houda and Daan and baby sister Lynah.

Last week was emotional but we had fun that night with Farah in our presence. It was so very special. We did not bring Noah with us. One day when it’s possible we will.

But Davy and I saw Farah and she was as sweet and girly as ever, her eyes twinkled as always. She was her coy self and talkative in spurts, when I sat with her. We had blankets beneath us. We laughed, trying to get a video up on the iPad, because she wanted to show me something in English because she knows it is a language I speak.

Farah’s spirit sparkles and she is still everything good and right with the world, though her little body has been through many changes from head to toe already. And I wished I could take away as many daily dilemnas and pains as I could for Farah, as a mother and as a friend to Houda.

I say Houda is one strong woman. No matter how weak Houda may think she’s being at times. But she should never think herself weak. Houda keeps it together and she lets go when she has to. There is no shame in that. You must cry and lose your shit, in life, because it keeps you balanced and human and honest. But it takes a strong person to keep that balance. And I think Houda is really cool. That’s a rarity these days, sadly. But it makes you cherish it when you find it.

Since we last saw Farah, Houda and Daan have had to make the tough decision to cut her hair very short, because she started losing it at an alarming rate.

~

Since we were all last together, there has been one word that’s been stuck in my head because Houda kept using it in conversation. Confronting.

Confronting, as it relates to seeing your child go through drastic and sometimes overnight changes, and to be able to handle that kind of change. How you handle it truly shows what you are made of as an adult, as a parent.

Confronting. It’s actually the perfect word, and maybe often not used enough. Because sometimes shocking isn’t the right word but we use it, because I feel like I can’t use confronting because what I feel is not the same as Houda’s. But we are both mothers so I know well where Houda is. And she’s so honest about it it’s something to truly respect.

It must be indeed confronting. And maybe lonely. Because how many parents do you know in your immediate and one degree of separation’s away radius, whose child was just diagnosed with cancer?

Confronting. Even though you may tell your child, during chemotherapy, that this will inevitably happen. Maybe that conversation happened just a week ago, and it’s a most difficult reality to swallow for everyone. But I truly appreciate Houda entrusting me with her family. I try to balance what is customary here with who I am as a person.

Since then I’ve been wearing half my clothes inside-out some days, because so much has happened while my brain is trying to catch up with it all. Davy has since the last blog basically changed “bosses” at the Port of Ghent, where he’s a heavy machinery dockworker. So there’s a whole new hierarchy of authority for me to get to know, as “a docker’s wife.”

And Noah, he deserves all the love and attention he gets from those who love him, as he should.

The Little Shop

Noah takes very seriously his “little shop” where he parks his stroller outside and tends to business selling me croissants and cakes. He grows by leaps and bounds faster than my iPhone can capture, but I try. He is unabashedly wiser than his years but frolicking his childhood away. We have much to be thankful for every day, but especially cognizant of Thanksgiving coming up…

Memory

Noah also takes seriously indulging my mother in New York, when we all Skype after school. Lately we’ve been playing some of Noah’s simplest games and it gets pretty intense and very funny watching the whole thing unfold. There’s lots of love  not to be taken for granted at this pace of life we all fall into place in. We hope to, in the future, Skype with Farah, as both she and Noah both have already agreed happily to a date.

And…

Wishlist

This

This is a photo of love and support sent from many parts of the world to be donated to the children’s cancer ward of UZ Gent, the hospital where Farah is currently receiving her care and treatment. Cancer has far too many faces.

At first Davy and I were piling boxes into the dining room but then the boxes transformed into just outpouring of love. Even the always cynical Davy was touched by the immediate response from so many of you. It’s right there in our personal space, it can’t be missed.

Thank you to everyone who has given their words of wisdom and love and support, and those who were able to give through the Farah’s World wishlist and fund. Your cash donations will be matched and the wishlist fulfilled. I had no idea what to expect, and the boxes of love keep coming.

It’s not really done here. Fundraising and donations, mostly because civil and social functions in Belgium are well-funded. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a need, even at basic humanitarian levels just to bring smiles to children’s faces. I struggle with riding the line between who I am and stopping myself because “it’s not really done here.” Because I don’t want to change too much while adjusting to life here. Since starting the wishlist of animal blankets, I have talked to parents and grandparents and friends and fans who have all been touched, in some way.

Thank you. For whatever your reason for being kind today, it has made a difference in someone’s day. That’s a good thing, still, that nobody can take away.

Always dishing,

Jun