The next morning, they took the drain out of his leg. It hurt just as bad, and again, the single tear was back. Consoling him was of no use. He refused to talk.
He seemed to be getting a little better when we went to get his cast on. Slowly but surely, I was starting to get a few more smiles out of him. He picked out the awesome colors for his Hawkeye cast. He didn’t have much pain when they were putting the cast on. A few times he winced, but he said it wasn’t bad.
A few hours later, I could tell something was wrong though. The movement from putting on the cast took its toll and Parker’s leg started bothering him. We gave him some good pain medication and he fell asleep.
Later that day, Dr. Miller came to the room and explained about the dark spot on Parker’s leg and how he might have to have another surgery. Almost immediately Parker was back down in the dumps. I still couldn’t get him to talk about it. I asked if he wanted to talk to the psychiatrist, but he refused.
This is where I went out to my car and broke. (You can read about that in my previous post.)
When we got back, Parker was still quiet. I tried getting him to talk, but he wouldn’t. I told him I understood he was feeling down, and I didn’t blame him. He’s been through more than any kid should have to go through. The dreary day passed, and we went to bed, ending the day, in a gloomy state.
The next day, physical therapy came. Parker had already been in a foul mood, and physical therapy did not help. We took him down the hall to practice getting up and down stairs. He was not thrilled, but he tried his best. He became quickly frustrated about the strength that he had lost, and I could tell he wanted nothing more than to get back to his room and lay in bed. After getting back in bed, the dreaded tear returned. I asked him if he was in pain. He said no. “Then what is wrong?” I asked. “I’m just, I don’t know. Mad.” he replied. I asked him if he wanted me to leave him alone and he said yes then fell asleep.
I felt so helpless and my eyes filled with tears. I left the room and asked for the Child Life Specialist. They had her paged, and she called me back a little while later. I told her that Parker was down and that I was worried about him. I asked if we could get some Hawkeyes to visit. My hope was that the coach could come and possibly give him a pep talk. The Iowa Hawkeyes Basketball coach, Fran McCaffery, had a son who also was a cancer warrior. I was trying to find anything that could help. She told me she would send out an email ASAP and follow up with me the next morning. I also reached out to a close friend of mine, who had helped find some signed Iowa Merchandise for the benefit, to see if any of his connections could help.
Also while he was sleeping, I sent a tweet out to Pat Angerer, Bryan Bulaga, and Micah Hyde to show them Parker’s awesome Hawkeye cast. Bryan and Micah were former Hawkeyes who now play for Parker’s favorite NFL team, The Green Bay Packers. Pat Angerer was also a former Hawkeye turned Pro that Parker always rooted for. Pat and Bryan retweeted the photo of Parker’s cast, and Pat even tweeted , “What a Badass!!!”
When Parker woke up, he was still down. I told him about the tweets, and he thought it was really awesome. He didn’t believe me that NFL Players would tweet about his cast. This raised his spirits for a little while, but he was soon back to bleakness.
That’s when I realized he needed to break. It was his turn. He was succeeding with being strong, but he needed to vent. He needed to let it out.
I took down the side rail and sat next to him on the bed. I told him I was worried about him and that he needed to talk to me; he grabbed his phone. I took it away. I said, “Please.” He stared at the TV; I shut it off. Again I told him that I was worried about him. I asked him if he was ok, and he put his arm over his face. I asked him if he was scared. No answer. I asked him again if he would talk to a psychiatrist, he said no. I told him that I know he’s strong. That if he’s scared, he has absolutely every reason to be scared. I assured him it would be okay. I told him I wanted him to get MAD and get ANGRY. Tears started to fill my eyes. I said, “Parker, I need to know that you’re going to fight this. I know that is selfish, but I need you to fight this.” My voice cracking, tears now unable to be contained. He started crying too and said, “Now you’re going to make me cry.” I told him that it was okay to cry.
After a few minutes, he told me he knows he can fight this and win. He told me that he was mad. That he was frustrated. He can’t run anymore. I quickly understood. He was starting to comprehend the toll of the surgery. We had explained it before, but now it was real. He was so active before playing outside with his friends. Chemo took that away temporarily, but he had been back playing soccer in the back yard a few days after receiving chemo. Sure his stamina was lessened, but he wasn’t completely limited. I explained to him that this, too, was temporary. Sure it was going to be a longer amount of time before he could run again, but someday he would. I told him the harder he worked towards it, the sooner it would come back. I told him laying in bed was not going to get him closer to playing sports. I could see him start to collect himself. I told him he had been so strong. I explained that I know it sucks; I hate it too. And for the rest of the year, it’s going to suck, but it’s going to get better too. I reminded him of Dr. Miller’s words, “If I need to ruin summer for you, I will, but you will have more summers.” I told him to beat this, and then the world was his.
The effects were almost instantaneous. He sat up in bed, he ate more, and he started using his incentive spirometer (an apparatus for breathing after surgery). He even pushed himself further during physical therapy. It didn’t take long. He was back to being himself, even joking with Kelsey when she came in for the night shift. His smile was back, and so was mine.
So I’ve come to realize breaking doesn’t mean we are weak. In fact, it makes us stronger. And Pat Angerer was right. Parker is one tough “bad ass”!