Finding out your child has cancer (as you can imagine) is one of the most devastating experiences a parent can go through. It is hard to put into words what I felt that night in a cold, dark E.R. I felt helpless, alone, and terrified. I didn't want to, but I couldn't help but think about the worst case scenarios. You can read about that night on my personal blog here. Although my husband and I were going through pure hell, Cami was oblivious and had no idea what cancer meant. Once we found out more about Cami's diagnosis we grew optimistic that after the battle of a lifetime she would heal and live a normal life again, but it was time to tell her what was in store for her. As a mother, this was the hardest moment for me. I could take hearing the bad news, having the heartache, but not my little 4 year old daughter. She shouldn't have to know about these things at such a young age. We thought long and hard about how to tell Cami that she would be getting sick, pretty much live at the hospital (or cooped up in her house) and that she would be losing her precious princess hair. So, 2 days after she was diagnosed we cleared out all the family, all the nurses and all the Doctors and we sat down to tell Cami about her battle that was to come. She had lots of questions about the medical things, but the hardest part for her was her hair. Her precious hair that she NEVER wanted to cut (because she was growing it out to be like Belle's) would soon be gone. She was heartbroken and she didn't understand why. It was the worst feeling in the world to be that out of control when your daughter is already going through such physical pain, to add to it emotional pain is just devastating. After spending some time with Cami and trying to talk things through with her we brought in a child phycologist. His name was Mike and he was EXCELLENT with Cami. He brought books about little girls losing their hair, he talked to her about her feelings and he gave us some really great tips on how to help her get through the emotional part of losing her hair. He suggested getting pictures taken before her hair fell out (so she could have something to look back on and mourn when it was gone). I am so glad we did this, Cami STILL looks back on these pictures and remembers her long hair and dreams about it one day growing that long again. Here is one of the photo's we had taken:
You can read my original post about these photo's here.
The other thing that Mike suggested was to "play it out". He suggested we use the "play it out" method to help heal Cami emotionally for many of the things she would be faced with over her 2 1/2 year battle with leukemia. He said that kids can deal with their emotions and tell us how they are feeling about what they are going through by acting them out, so we played pretend that her froggy was sick and lost his hair, then it was Barbie, then My Little Pony, and a baby doll. We played out every scenario and it HELPED! After a few days of playing we realized that Cami was feeling better about losing her hair, and she was even looking on the bright side. I'll never forget the joy I felt when she said "at least my little brother wont be able to pull my hair anymore!" We ended up shaving Cami's hair almost 1 month after she was diagnosed, it was falling everywhere (getting in her food, itching her, etc.) she decided she wanted to make it a party, so that's what we did (you can read about it here). Here are a few pictures of that day...
Cami wanted to shave her Daddy's hair first...
Then it was his turn (Pat said this was one of the hardest thing's he's ever had to do).
I was a wreck...
I'm so grateful for this picture.. just look at that smile on our brave girls face! It was Mommy who needed the comforting, not her... she is (and always will be) so much braver than me... my little hero!
So... the reason I am telling you guys all of this is because we have an AMAZING vendor who wants to make this process easier on these cancer families. Jill and Blythe with Swanky Janes creates gorgeous hand-made dolls. She has created a custom doll for our cancer cuties so they can "play-it-out" and deal with their emotions through play. Not only did she donate one of her products (as each of our vendors do) to our featured cancer cutie Millie, she is going to make a custom doll for EVERY child we feature this next year! Tears stream down my face as I type this. I am so grateful for Swanky Janes, they are a vendor who truly understand our mission to help these kids and they are doing everything in their power to help us.
Swanky Janes is being featured on P.S I Adore You and has some beautifully hand-crafted dolls for your little ones too!
Check out Millie's darling doll they created to look just like her: