We Can Never Go Back

A few nights ago Thaddeus called me into his room. “I’m scared,” he mumbled. 

I sat down on the bed, slightly exasperated, “What is it?” I asked. I could hear the fatigue in my own voice, I wanted to get back to watching Netflix with Bryan. I didn't want to deal with what seemed to me to be just an attempt at stalling bedtime. 

Thaddeus didn’t answer my question, he just held out the magazine he had been reading and pointed to a page showing leading causes of death. 

“It’s number two,” he whispered, snuggling close in to my side as I looked at the graph with the word “cancer” in bold. 

“Yeah,” I sighed, my exasperating melting, and wrapped my arm around his thin frame. 

“Does daddy still have cancer?” He asked. 

“Oh, buddy.” I said pulling him close. “Daddy’s ok right now.”

“But does he still have cancer?” He asked again this time looking up at me. 

“Well, yeah. But he’s ok right now. Cancer’s really only dangerous when it’s growing, and daddy’s isn’t. It’s stable.”

He sat back for a moment and I could see his little brain working, “Is there anything he can do to keep it from growing?” He asked. 

“Well, he can do what any of us do to stay healthy, he can rest and eat well and exerci..”

He cut me off, “But that’s all just normal stuff,” he said emphasizing the word normal by dragging it out. “Is there anything else he can do?”

“Well, there’s medicine he can take if he needs to,” I replied. 

He nodded his head, “Yeah, yeah.”

We were quiet for a moment then. I wondered what he was thinking and if he had any more questions, but I didn't want to push him by asking so I sat quietly and rubbed his back. 

“And it’s not contagious?” He asked, remembering perhaps when we had first told him about Bryan’s cancer and reassured him he couldn’t get it. 

“No it’s not contagious.” I reassured again, pulling him close to me once more. 

“Did he have it when he was born,” he asked pulling away a little.

“No.” I answered. 

He followed up quickly with, “When did he get it?”

“Do you remember the apartment we lived in when we were in Seattle?”

He nodded his head, picking at a scab on his arm.

“We found out he had it then,” I said. 

“But is that when he got it?” 

“Well, we don’t really know when he got it, but that’s when we found out. When we were in that apartment.”

“I remember the table in that apartment.” He said and from there the conversation shifted to talking about what he remembered from that apartment and that season in our lives. 

When I walked out of his room a few minutes later I knew we had crossed a threshold and we could never go back. He understands now what cancer means and what it does.


Grace and peace,

Bethany Stedman