Updated: Mar 15, 2020
And just like that, the summer is over. I knew it would fly by, but I didn’t anticipate writing no updates here. Please take that as the best kind of sign. TL;DR- Thea is doing very well and is ready to start Kindergarten on Monday!
The main reason we haven’t written any updates is because we were too busy dealing with a big update: in late May we signed a lease to move to a house across the city. This was monumental for us. Jeff and I had moved almost every year (Chicago! Guatemala! Chicago! Buy a condo! Boston! Boston but not a 400 square foot MIT cement cave!). Then we moved to San Francisco and spent nine years in our apartment in the Mission. We raised Poll Everywhere there; we raised our babies there. Nine years meant June was an absolute blur of packing mania and then we made the official move on July 1. We have now settled in just in time for school to start. We live in a neighborhood called West Portal, mainly known for its top-notch old people, families and fog. It is true that it’s WAY less sunny than the Mission, but the four of us still can’t stop smiling. We traded sun and hipsters for a detached house of our own with a yard and a big <strikethrough>man cave</strikethrough> garage. It’s been such a needed change. I am relishing the fact that I get to write this to you from a hammock in the backyard. We knew we’d outgrown our loft apartment, but we didn’t know how much joy this space would give us.
Plus, the quiet pace of the neighborhood has been therapeutic for all of us after the somewhat stressful and high energy buzz of the Mission. We are a short two blocks to the main drag that holds countless delights for the girls (Toy store! Book store! Bakery! Park! Library!) and plenty for Jeff and I too (easy transit to downtown, coffee shops, restaurants). We’re making new friends and discovering new neighborhood gems. On our block we have nearly a dozen kids including several kindergarteners. It’s a huge change from our loft building of almost entirely adults. Just a half block down is Jeff’s co-founder Brad and his family (no, just a happy accident) so we’ve basically had the best West Portal tour guides ever.
All of this awesomeness did come at a bit of a cost but it’s easy for me to write about that now because it feels firmly behind us. In all of our frenetic preparations to pack and move, Jeff and I did not do our best parenting in terms of preparing the girls. We had talked about moving for months but when it came time, we now realize in retrospect we could have done more. The move was very hard on them, particularly Thea, and we have a feeling we could have softened the transition more by incorporating more closure rituals, letting her help pack, etc. Instead, she had to watch the only home she ever knew get taken down around her, down to Siggy’s very bedroom walls. We realized once the move was complete that she has absolutely no concept for why anyone would move, ever. She was perfectly happy with her <strikethrough>closet</strikethrough> tiny bedroom. Her behavior kept ramping up and of course that set Siggy off, and by the time we actually moved, the girls were being violent with each other in a way we’ve never dealt with before. Today, six weeks past it all, I am very happy to say they are back to themselves and are finding happiness and peace in the new neighborhood.
Now we are turning our attention towards the big transition to school. Unbelievably, both girls start on Monday. Last week, Thea had the minor surgery necessary to remove her mediport so we have one less thing to worry about at school. She is doing very well with the daily oral chemo regimen. We go to the hospital quarterly for IV chemo and spinal tap and monthly for a blood draw to monitor her counts. If counts go higher, her daily chemo will increase in dose. If they dip too low, they may decrease the dose. So far she is holding steady at exactly where they want her to be. Her hair is growing in and she is full of energy. Every day she resembles less and less of the very-sick girl she was just months ago. One of my favorite things to do is look at side-by-side pictures to bask in how well she is doing.
Emotionally, she seems to be doing relatively well too. Thea has always been a more complex, intense child, but Jeff and I also see how this year of protected isolation has changed her. She has become a bit more fragile, collapsing into body-shaking wails at the slightest disappointment or minor injury and also a bit more socially awkward. She used to be a classroom ring leader, sometimes mean girl. Now she tends to observe and hold back, constantly worrying about doing the right thing and always noticing and helping anyone who is upset. We’re so curious how her personality will continue to shift and change now that she’ll be with peers again and in a challenging academic setting.
We have so many hopes for her this year - we hope all the chemo over the last months hasn’t impacted her ability to learn too much. We hope she will be accepted with “boy hair” and not treated as an “other.” But probably by far our biggest hope is that she will actually get to attend the majority of the school days. Her immune system is and will remain compromised, and we know she’ll probably be sick and absent frequently. We’ve heard stories all over the spectrum from other cancer families. From kids who spend more time in the hospital than they did during all of frontline treatment to those that end up fully repeating a grade to those who miss no more than a few days a month. The unknowns sometimes paralyze me - I’m a person who likes to know the plan. But, then I remind myself that we have a no-plan plan. I am deliberately not going back to work yet. The goal is January which will give us the time we need to try and figure out what school attendance looks like for Thea. This will also give me a chance to figure out what kind of job I can do well. In the last few weeks I have felt a major shift in myself. I feel ready to go back to work and am looking forward to it too. It feels like our girls are starting a new chapter and I am eager to have my own too.
Thank you to so many of you for your thoughtfulness. I don’t know how you remember to text me to check in all the time but it’s so appreciated. If you are wondering how to help and support now, I think it’s mainly just a sending of good vibes!! In October we hope to have a big party to celebrate Thea’s 6th birthday and one year of remission. We hope to see you local folks there! I will keep the Amazon wishlist up for now but it’s quite short these days. She still gets a chemo present every three months and the physical therapy continues so there are a few items for that. If you do plan to send a care package of any kind, THANK YOU and also, please note our new address:
88 Madrone Ave.
SF, CA 92147
PS Siggy! I mentioned nearly zero things about her! She too has adjusted to the move, is her usually bubbly, gregarious, highly humorous self and is SUPER excited to start preschool on Monday at a great program through the YMCA. She celebrated her fourth birthday this week and her latest achievements include learning how to skip, perfecting her “strut,” and wiping her own tush (okay, that one is still a work in progress).