Sometimes Chase remembers that things change as he grows and sometimes he doesn’t. The last time he had a continuous EEG (the process of monitoring the working of his brain for hours on end), he was newly 4, six months off chemo, and his heart and body were both still deeply hospital weary. He had to be wrapped and held and he screamed the whole time as the wires and goo covered his head, so when I told him on Monday that the time was coming again, he slumped down on the couch next to me. “Mom, stop talking. Please don’t say anything else. I need to breathe. No more talking… I need to breathe in and breathe out right now.” And I sat half laughing and half broken that he’s 5 and yet he’s 107 for all of his experience.
In preparation, we wandered through Target last night and found a new movie and some popcorn because seizures can happen when you go from sleeping to waking and so he had to be able to sleep during the test, and as the kids sat on the old, blue leather couches and munched around giggles at WALL-E, there was another July EEG night on my heart. One when Darcy and Aidan were still too young to stay up terribly late and Bob and I took turns napping and walking a two-year-old Chase around the block and at 10:30, when I simply couldn’t stand anymore Thomas the Tank Engine and decided to put him to bed, he lost his balance and fell, and my stomach turned, but many things can cause a fall and so we went to bed anyway…never knowing that it was less than 48 hours til we’d sleep in an ICU under the shadow of imminent surgery and tragic diagnosis. I always think of that night come each July and it was my turn to breathe in and breathe out and remember that by the grace of God, that night wasn’t a minute past, but nearly three years ago.
This movie night lasted until 11:00 and the EEG day started at 5:00 and in moments like this, grace and coffee are my best friends. By a mile down the road, it was time to find the nearest bathroom just because that’s what happens with 5-year-olds, and as we sat on the Eisenhower in the long lines of traffic, as soon as he saw the top of the Willis Tower, Chase pulled out his iPad and turned on 10,000 Reasons, because sighting the tower means he’s almost there. Three years have nearly passed and this is still how he prepares for a hospital day.
Within minutes, we were there in the familiar rooms again and then came the moment he knew things had changed for he sat completely still while they put 21 brightly colored electrodes all over his skull and the only time he ever got cross was when I tried to make him laugh. And I got to hold his hand and not hold him still.
Chase never relinquishes a fight and it took him until 5 hours into the test to fall asleep and that was 5…long…hours… of sitting in a bed with virtually no radius of movement unless a bathroom was absolutely necessary.
When the test was done, having mercifully lasted only 6.5 hours, he pulled some St. Baldrick’s brochures out of his pack. They had his picture inside, his and Dr. Lulla’s, and to anyone who would stop, he gave a brochure and said “I’m an ambassador.” And even though he doesn’t always give Dr. Lulla the time of day during clinic visits, to any and all who would listen, he would explain and point, saying “This is Dr. Lulla and he’s my favorite doctor in the whole world.” He even stopped a security guard and somehow managed to encourage him to shave his head next year, and it was a precious moment of conversation and meeting, because if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it here a dozen times…this is how Chase rolls. And I wish you could have seen the tall security guard fold down and give tiny Chase a big hug. Those are the good moments to breathe in.
And now Chase has learned that things change as he grows and what was hard a year ago wasn’t very hard at all anymore, though the sitting still and his mom trying to make him laugh at inopportune moments will probably remain trials for many years to come.
For now we await results. No matter what comes of this, we’ll breathe in, breathe out, and take it…
Moment by moment.