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10 Years Ago My Son’s Doctor Gave Me a Challenge

Alethea Mshar
Special needs mom and Blogger
02/14/20  8:00 AM PST
Doctor

A Doctor’s Challenge

My tiny boy was sitting in his hospital bed with chemotherapy running into the PORT that had just been surgically inserted into his chest. All while recovering from a lumbar puncture and bone marrow biopsy. Doctor C, Ben’s primary oncologist is a jovial, grandfatherly man with a round face and belly to match who’s paradoxically a Harley guy on his off time. He had to know I was reeling, though I tried to put on a brave face.

He looked me straight in the face and he told me to make sure I keep up good parenting and discipline even when Ben was really sick. Doctor

I nodded along while already making excuses in my mind. Ben has Down syndrome, and even though he had just been diagnosed with leukemia he had previously been in the hospital a dozen or so times at the ripe old age of three for other medical issues. Meanwhile, they had informed me that he would be on steroids a week out of every month, which I knew would mean zero sleep for all of us and massive meltdowns around the clock.

10 Years Later…

Though it has been ten years since that conversation, those words have never been far from my mind. Through sleepless night after night and chaotic day after day, I have all too often failed to keep up good parenting and discipline. I have allowed excessive tablet time, have given in to tantrums and been inconsistent at best. I’ve so often wondered if I was living up to the challenge issued in that hospital room that day, and I’ve often noticed I wasn’t.

In the daily moments, I know there were many lapses and dropped balls, but on reflection, I see it differently. 

Because of those words, etched indelibly on my brain, I have picked myself up again and again and kept trying. The man responsible for saving my son’s life had issued me a challenge, and whether he knew it or not, I wasn’t about to let him down. 

I never stopped trying, I never stopped picking back up when I stumbled.

It has taken a mighty long time to feel successful. This February, we’ll have Ben’s ten year recheck with his oncologist. For perhaps the first time ever, I plan to walk into that checkup room proud of the high standards we have for Ben, and proud of my parenting. I can’t wait to look Doctor C in the eye and thank him for issuing that challenge so long ago, to tell him I never stopped trying, and to show him how far we have come. And I can’t wait to thank Doctor C for expecting so much from me through our darkest days as a family, and tell him he changed our lives for the better, not just with excellent medical care, but with his wisdom and bedside manner. I hope we make him proud.

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Alethea Mshar is a Special Needs Mom and Blogger.

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