Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Day with Light

Thursday was a busy one. I drove David to school, and caught the ferry to the city for a day of meetings at Seattle Children's Hospital. You know by now that my heart is full of gratitude for the people who work there, who helped to bring light into the darkness of our child's cancer journey. Well, Thursday was full of light.

First, I stopped at the volunteer office, to register a batch of quilts and a huge bag of Auntie Nadine's knitted hats, scarves and sweaters into the donation system. I filled out the forms, talked about Katie with the kind-hearted volunteers (showed her photo, too) and then took the donations up to the SCCA (Seattle Cancer Care Alliance) floor. I met Julie and Ashley (ChildLife Specialists) at their office and gave them the quilts. I took hats to the SCCA ward (and hugged one of the nurses who took care of Katie) and hats to SCCA clinic (and hugged another of the nurses who took care of Katie). Then it was time to go back to the ChildLife office and get ready for a photo shoot.

Seattle Children's Hospital puts out a magazine called "Connections," several times a year. It's a great magazine that gives updates on what's new at the hospital. David and I were interviewed for an article about ChildLife (it will come out in the Winter issue), and it required a photo of us with Julie. Unfortunately, David couldn't make it, so they got me...and a batch of the quilts! It turned out to be a wonderful  opportunity to talk about Katie's Comforters Guild, while highlighting the essential role that ChildLife played in helping us.

As we were posing and trying to look natural (with me wishing I had had braces when I was young), laughing and chatting, I said to the editor of the magazine, point-blank: May I ask you a favor? Will you please mention Katie's Comforters Guild somewhere in the article? She said, Yes, and asked me to tell her about it. She said she would use the info in the photo I am now filled with hope about that. Part of the fun was seeing her (and the photographer's) response to the quilts. They wanted to see each one, hear about them, touch them, and look at the combinations of fabrics. They chose their personal favorites; they engaged with the idea and the physical reality of the quilts. That made me very happy.

After the photo shoot, Julie and I returned to her office, where we reviewed her comments on a book that I am working on for adolescents and teens who have cancer. She was full of insightful, concrete ideas. We weren't able to finish, because I had another meeting in another part of the hospital (for the Guild) I ran off to that meeting. Down to the coffee shop on the 1st floor, to meet with the President of the Guild Association and a board member about progress on Katie's Comforters Guild, and our next steps. It was very energizing and exciting to talk about it with them. Their experience is vitally important to my learning process and to making this new, "virtual guild" (read:  no meetings!) into a thriving entity.

In the midst of this meeting, in the doorway of the coffee shop, I saw Dr. C., the genius heart surgeon who performed part of Katie's surgery. My attention veered instantly away from the meeting, to him. I love Katie's surgeons. How can I describe the love I have for the two men (and their supporting staff) who took the enormous tumor out of Katie's abdomen, and gave her a second chance at life? It's deep, passionate and real. Dr. C. came over to our table to chat.

I jumped up to hug him, and we all started to talk. I asked him if he remembered Katie's surgery (he performs A LOT of surgeries). He told me, Yes, that he had just been talking about it a few days ago. He said he was being interviewed for a book, and that the author asked him if he goes home each night and thinks about how amazing his day was, doing these surgeries. Dr. C. said, No, he doesn't, because that's his job; it's what he does. Apparently, Dr. W. (Katie's chief surgeon, who was in charge of, and performed most of, the 18-hour surgery) was standing nearby during this interview, and Dr. C. told the author that there are some surgeries that he and Dr. W.  have done together that they will never forget; Katie's was one of them. I showed him the photographs of her after she recovered, just being a kid and enjoying life.

Dr. C. asked me how I am doing. I told him that doing things like the quilt project/guild helps me; that it feels good to try to bring some light to the darkness. He told me that he often uses the glassybaby candle that we gave him (we gave them to many staff members as a "thank you" when we left the hospital), and he said that the glassybaby is still bringing light. That was a lovely thing to say, and it made me happy.

After that meeting was over, I went back upstairs to finish discussing the book with ChildLife. More great input and insight from Julie and Ashley. Lots of ideas, notes and ways to go forward. Then I got into my car and drove to Ronald McDonald House to donate another huge bag of knitted hats, scarves and sweaters; then back to the ferry to come home.

That was a big day, for me. Lots of progress, lots of openings, lots of light. I did realize that I spend so much time alone that I have now become something of an interrupter. UGH. Otherwise, it was a great day, thanks to everyone who is supporting these efforts. They help to make my life more worthwile.


Anonymous said...

What a great post - I can just imagine your day there since we've spent so many there, too. Daniel was actually in "Connections" too! They took his picture with some motorcross riders that visited the hospital. It was right in the middle of his treatment - he was puffy from the steroids and glassy-eyed from chemo. But, he was proud to be in the magazine! I'll have to make sure and get a copy when your story is in it. xo L in AK

Elizabeth said...

It's amazing how "outward" helps us to let go of "inward" when inward is just too much. The work you are doing is admirable, more than admirable. It's stunning and something to emulate.

Kay said...

I'm so glad it was a great day for you. : ) I hope the work you're doing can grow from the article. Wouldn't that be great?! What a help to so many families! : )

Busy Bee Suz said...

You are doing such great work Karen!!! I am so proud of you and FOR you, I know this is good for you to bring the light to others.
I know Katie is proud of all the good things you have done and are doing.

Karen and Joe said...

Wow! That was just something amazing to read! What a day of light, power, love and comfort!What a lovely thing you are doing with your grief. It is so inspiring, and I pray that I will also find as generous a way to redeem my grief.You are really something, Karen. said...

Don't you just LOVE days like this? Woo-Hoo! Katie would be so pleased...

Karla said...

That day sounds like it was one giant hug. :)