February 8th is a day of hope and joy.
On this day we found happiness and laughter in the midst of a scary time in our life. This is the day we welcomed a healthy baby boy into the world- Bennett Arthur MacGregor. Ten years ago, today.
I was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 30, 7 months pregnant. The scariest experience of our life… up until that point. We were blindsided and overwhelmed. No family history, healthy, active, organic eating young mom. The disbelief was like a tidal wave. Hitting us repeatedly.
I walked in to my first chemo appointment and the receptionist smiled kindly telling me I was on the wrong floor. “Sweetie” (I lived in Alabama) “OB/GYN is on the third floor.” I looked at her, pen shaking in my hand. I signed in. Deep breath. “No. I’m in the right place.”
They hooked me up to the chemo, explaining the toxicity of the adriamycin and cytoxan regimen. The “red devil,” as it is known. I watched poison pump into my veins. I felt our unborn child kick. 3 times we repeated this routine. Each time hoping the chemo wasn’t making our unborn child feel as awful as it was me. My hair fell out. My belly grew.
The world as we knew it crumbled.
But, we believed in our doctors and the hope they had for both me and our child. We clung to stories of others who had faced cancer while pregnant. And on February 9th – we breathed a collective sigh of relief as our baby was removed from my toxic, cancer producing body. Full term, healthy and… with bright red hair. Sometimes life throws you humor when you least expect it. We don’t have anyone with red hair in our family. Our older child is blonde. As I looked down at our son finally safe in my arms… I never imagined holding a red headed baby. Could it be the chemo??? No one could say for sure… but it certainly made us all laugh. And he has truly lived up to the joke around the hospital that day that he we had our very own “red devil.”
Our little chemo baby. A miracle of sorts.
Ten years later he is a spunky, creative, sporty, caring boy. His first word was ball. And we never had to teach him to throw or kick. Everything is a competition. He loves to solve problems. His memory is uncanny. “Remember that time we were skiing in Big Sky and that little snowboarder hit that jump when we were on the chair lift?” Ummm… we were in Big Sky when you were five… kind of… why? The person next to me said, “he has some balls” – that’s what that player just said about his teammate. “Steal trap” Jay and I often whisper to each other when he brings up minute details and connects them to things happening today. And each time, I can’t help but think… will he remember me with such clear detail?
Each year Bennett and I take a nose to nose picture just like the one we took on the day he was born. Of course, now he complains. “Mo-om. Do I have to?” Yes. You do. If only he knew how much his birth meant to our family. How that moment of stillness, nose to nose each year connects us to his precious birth day. A snap of a picture, my way of reinforcing the hope his life meant and continues to mean in the face of cancer. Each year we can take it is another year I am here, able to love him and be his mom.
Happy birthday sweet Bennett B. We love you. And your awesome red hair. A constant reminder of living and loving life over cancer. I am so excited you are 10. And I am your mom.