These last few months I have been a spectator in my sister’s diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia. Again, like Frankie’s type 1 diabetes, it is seeing from the outside—someone you love with all you’ve got- battle a disease inside them. The fear at diagnosis, the stomach churning ‘watch’ you keep as your loved one fights a monster, and not knowing what it feels like –only what it looks like. What it looks like—watching both my sister and my son— un-rivaled determination, courage, hope, and super hero strength. I call Frankie my ‘Superman.’ I call my sister, Peg, ‘Batman’ and I have been given the chance to be Peg’s ‘Robin.’ I am her bone marrow donor.
To be the donor, there is a pretty intense physical exam, lots of blood draws, and leading up to transplant day—injecting yourself with stem cell producing medication. This is nothing compared to what my sister is going through, or what my son goes through. This is just days for me-just days—that are giving me a glimpse into the daily life of my son.
I have to stick that needle in my stomach? Three times a day? The first set of injections were done at the cancer center—so a nurse did the deed. The rest of the injections I do myself at home. The first day-Frankie gave me his bear, the one he holds when we change his insulin pump, and he stayed next to me while I got the job done. My son was injecting himself in the stomach at 6 years old, and there I stood, at 46, shaking in my shoes, and channeling my inner Frankie.
These injections cause nausea, lightheadedness, extreme lethargy. Sound familiar? That is exactly how Frankie describes a high or low glucose level. I went to work day 2 of injections. God help the place where I work. The whole day—I felt like I couldn’t get my words out right, a simple task took me longer to finish—and heaven knows if I did it correctly or not. I was in the bathroom ten thousand times thinking I was going to be sick. I can’t be sure, but I am pretty certain I was also a grumpy jerk. I came home-headed right to bed and slept like Rip Van Winkle. My son gets through school like this and still gets good grades? Gets along with his friends, plays basketball, lacrosse, and is a cub scout?
I have said that diabetes has given me the gift of feeling like Superman’s mother. I have watched my baby boy turn into a responsible young man. I see his super powers at work—as he bravely fights his foe- type 1 diabetes-everyday. My Superman.
My sister, Batman, is fighting just as hard as Frankie, with a smile on her face and faith in her heart. She is going to beat this.
We will never know in this life why we are given challenges like cancer and diabetes, but I believe everything has a reason and there are gifts to be found in every hurdle to be faced. I remain a spectator in my sister’s battle against cancer, I can only imagine and watch her courageous struggle- but her battle has given me the gift of a small…walk in Frankie’s shoes.