Friday, January 23, 2009

Wax On, Wax Off

Above photos are evidence that Pablo has an older brother. His name is Grady, and he calls this trick a Toe Willy.

Jo Ann and Pablo went in yesterday afternoon for a blood draw. As expected, P's blood numbers are at the bottom of the cycle. This is when he is on full lock down. No rough play, no contact with the outside world. Lots of board games. Lots of Scooby. Lots of messin around with Grady and Mommy. And, on this particular weekend, lots of Tour Down Under (first race of Lance Armstrong's return to cycling) with Papa.

One new medical aspect this time around is the daily shot of Neupogen. It is meant to successfully send a signal to Pablo's bone marrow to accelerate the production of blood cells. Up to now, Pablo has been given a shot of Neulasta—same idea, but the single shot is meant to send the same message of production over a long period of time. Dr M's hope is that the daily shot will make a difference in Pablo's blood recovery. His upswing in the last round of chemo was the slowest yet. And the best chemo regimen is one that is administered on a rigid schedule. Delays because of fevers and slow blood recovery are no ideal.

We have had an intense, but very productive and normal week. In many ways, this week has been the best since May 17. Why? Because Pablo is engaging and engaged, hilarious, insightful. To say it plain, he is happy. And he shares his happiness and love frequently and freely. Here's an example of what I'm talking about—Polly relayed this story to Jo Ann and I yesterday over email:

'Today when P and I were playing with his dolls Fudgie K.K.J.J. and Monk, Pablo was setting the scene for what was going down between them. After adding lots of details, he said, "OK, let's review" and summarized the thing before we started. I'm surprised he didn't bust out a Power Point presentation.'

Maybe it's a 'my kid' thing, but I laughed out loud when I read 'let's review'!!!!! Genius! Hilarious.... And, I hope he remembers that phrase—it'll help him on many a future homework night.

What fascinates all the adults in P's life is the simple fact that while the chemo and radiation are doing their jobs of destroying things inside him (some good, mostly bad stuff), and P's entire life is focused on the administration of and recovery from medical s**t, he is racing down the road of intellectual, physical and spiritual development. Even in the absence of abundant play with children his age and group education (ie, kindergarten). Every day, Pablo tells us what he knows, what he's deduced, what he wants to know, that he can use the information he's mastered, and that he isn't afraid to use his bro, parents and nanny as a test audience. A crystal clear depiction of the human spirit in early bloom. Whether you believe that all of us nut bags descend from a flash of light in space, or from a supreme being, or from painted turtles on a faraway island, this is a beautiful thing to witness. No one can argue that.

I am describing Pablo's bloom cos he's the only little kid around me. Everyone who reads this has stories about a child(ren), all moving, gripping stories for sure. These moments are life. All we are asked to do is slow down and savor them. If we don't, we're sure to rely on Hollywood to paint a facsimile of tender moments. And that's not fun.

Cancer has been a strange blessing in our lives. It has slowed us down, given us hundreds of hours together as a family. It has thrown us against the wall in situations when we've been s**tty to one another. It has forced us to deal with logistical aspects of our family life and thrust them into the background so that life can happen (for years, it was the opposite).

On a very specific note, Jo Ann and I have learned how to economize energy, go to sleep early so we can wake early and have alone time or get things done. We have accepted the fact that, at the exact time Pablo has meant to go to kindergarten, and be away from the nest for a long period of time every day, the exact opposite has gone down. Jo Ann says it's like having a five-year-old newborn: he needs constant attention and monitoring. And we are forever looking at him, reminding him to 'walk!' when he runs across the house, or offering him precious calories in the form of any kind of food he'll put in his mouth.

In the past few weeks, he has taught himself how to use our crazy hi-tech TV remote. Thank God! Every 26 minutes one of us would have to go into the TV room to scroll through the Tivo list and help him pick out a new 'Scooby Doo.' When you've heard me say I'd do anything for P, I haven't been lying. But spending 10 minutes debating which episode of 'Scoob' was about to fall off the 'anything' list! Seriously....

Pablo's self-motivated desire to learn the remote has also helped with spelling. You can't navigate a Tivo list if you can't spell. In his case, he has devised a technique where he knows the initial letter of his fave shows. On days where two shows begin with 's,' he has asked about the second letter in 'Scooby' and so forth. He's learning the basics of letters and sounds and words as a result of his cancer treatment. It'll be a great story to tell his kids. And hopefully this accelerated skill will afford him some extra time to ride his bike after school in future grades.

It's really something to see Pablo ask for help, get it, and then utilize a newly mastered skill. It's so basic. And it works. It's actually helped me to break down complicated tasks in my own life. The student teaching the teacher.... Wax on, wax off....

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