The Effect on Abi

Abi was only two when she was first rushed to the hospital requiring life-saving surgery. She is now a happy little girl who is getting along beautifully with all her new friends at school. Considering what she’s been through, she is remarkably well grounded too. If you did not know her story, then you would certainly not believe it after watching her play. So it’s difficult to quantify the effect the illness and treatments have had on her.

Abi has become used to hospital procedures and, as long as mum or dad are in the scan room with her, she even manages her MRI scans without general anaesthetic. But she’s very smart, and I am well aware that when I’m discussing her treatment with her doctors, even while she plays noisily nearby, she’s probably listening. In fact, recently I got definitive proof of that when not long after we had seen her surgeon, I sat her down on a playground bench and asked whether she had heard the conversation. “Of course!” she told me, suggesting that it was a silly question. So then I asked her what she had heard: “That the ball in my head is growing,” she said. She sounded a little resigned to this inevitability, and it upset me. But I managed to hide my feelings: “Darling, you are not to worry. Your mum, me and all the doctors are doing our utmost to find the best treatment for you,” I told her, reassuringly, before adding: “We will beat that ball.” That seemed to satisfy her because her attention quickly shifted to playing on the climbing equipment. But I believe our talk was necessary; I think it helped vanquish a demon.

Later, after the girls had gone to bed, I thought about our conversation. Should I be more careful around Abi when having discussions with her doctors? I quickly arrived at the conclusion that I should not; I am trying to raise my children to be open and honest and that includes talking about difficult subjects. I do not want to frighten Abi (or her sister), but over the past three years, we have had many discussions about her tumour, or, as we call it, the “ball in her head.” The subject is not taboo. We have not hidden it away out of fear. Besides, I believe it’s essential that, eventually, Abi takes charge of her own health. She can only do that by being aware of her condition. Ultimately, there will be no better judge of her well-being than Abi herself.

Perhaps I’m overly optimistic by thinking that Abi’s illness might actually benefit her one day. Maybe it’s just a weak attempt at reconciling myself to what she’s been through. Nevertheless, when I watch Abi happily go about her life, I have the feeling that after everything she’s had to go through, if we can beat her tumour, or manage it effectively, then she will grow up much the wiser and use her experiences for the better.

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