Two Under Two Plus Cancer

NOTE: I originally wrote this piece two years ago, in February 2020, while going through chemotherapy for stage 3 breast cancer. Though times have changed, my kids are still crazy.

I had a really weird dream the other night.

I was in a dimly-lit room, a combination movie theatre/computer lab/lecture hall. A large projector screen took up the entire front of the room, and rows of desks and swivel chairs led up a staircase toward the back of the room. At a front table separate from the rows of desks, I stood beside my oncology team. My doctor was explaining the results of another test, which was projected on the huge screen– some colors and shapes on a skeletal outline.

For some bizarre reason, I was also trying to teach my students at the same time from this position at the front of the room, though they weren’t just my college or high school students. Students of all ages were coming up to me and asking about schoolwork that they had on their own computer screens. Some waved me over to desktop computers that were anchored to the desks; others carried tablets over to me. I moved throughout the room to assist everyone. Many were calling my name and asking questions at the same time. Then, the big screen that was supposed to be showing my test results kept switching to math equations and reading selections from the students’ computers. (I don’t know why my dream students were asking me to solve math problems– they were going to be sorely disappointed with the results.)

During all of this chaos, the doctor and nurses followed me around, trying to get me back to the front of the room. Whenever the screen switched to a student’s work, the doctor and nurses had to try to figure out how to get my results back on the screen. At one point, a small kid ran over asking for help with his iPad, and I realized it was my oldest son, Rayden, but with red hair. I showed him how to type out the letters to move a little mouse icon across a huge ditch — some kind of game he was playing. When I turned around, there were now two new doctors telling me that they couldn’t see my test results here and that we needed to do another test instead.

I felt like I was being pulled in multiple directions throughout the dream– from the doctors to the students asking questions to my own son wanting help with his little game. I remember my head turning back and forth throughout the dream, always spotting someone demanding something from behind me no matter what direction I turned.

I woke up with a start. When I recounted the dream to my husband, minutes later, I realized aloud that it was basically my life right now: being pulled in so many directions. I laughed. It hadn’t been a scary dream, just a vividly realistic and slightly off-putting one. I guess I do feel that I’m being pulled in different ways and that I don’t always have control of the direction. I’m not sure if my subconscious thinks I’m handling it well or not the way the dream played out. 

While they weren’t present in my dream, my two youngest have pulled me in different ways, as well. Not in a bad way. Just in a busy way where I spend a lot of time feeding tiny people, cleaning up after them, and changing diapers. I enjoy watching my kids’ antics. The other day, after bath time, when I thought my middle child was snugly wrapped in his towel toga for a second so that I could grab a glass of water from the kitchen, he suddenly came dancing in, completely naked, playing a toy harmonica.

Moments like this, I can’t help but laugh. It’s entertaining to watch all three of my kids interact, too. My oldest asks nonstop questions, both serious and humorous, about everything under the sun, from his schoolwork to my appearance to philosophical ponderings about life and death. My toddler’s favorite pastime is pulling all of the puzzles and board games off the shelf and spreading the detritus throughout the house. Even the newborn watches his brothers with wide eyes, taking it all in, probably learning how to pull a book off the shelf at the perfect angle so that all of the other toys come tumbling down, or how to smash banana bread into clothing at the right consistency so that it doesn’t come off.

While it can be chaotic, I think it’s also comforting. It might be easier to feel more down about the cancer if I wasn’t watching my kids cuddle (or, let’s be honest, wrestle is probably a more accurate word most of the time, but I swear they’re wrestling in a loving way). I can look around my house and see that I have my own little team of supporters right at home with me every day, cheering me up, making me laugh, and keeping me busy– usually all at once.

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