Let’s Talk About Measles

There is an outbreak in the US. And it’s in California. And, more specifically, measles are in the county I live in. Patients have been treated for measles at the hospital where Jack receives chemotherapy treatment, even.

I’ve been really good about not freaking out, even though I have every right to freak out. I have no explanation for why I am not coming completely unhinged as the news reports more and more measles cases every day.

Both of my kids are in danger. Desmond, at 5 months, is too young for the MMR vaccine and chemotherapy has wiped out Jack’s immune system – including many, if not all, of the immunities he used to have. Jack attends public school and Dez goes to daycare. Jack won’t be able to get the live virus vaccines (MMR & Chickenpox) until a year post-treatment – so, March 2016. Dez will receive his immunizations after his first birthday in September (at least, I think that’s the case – Jack’s health status may delay that!).

Until then, it feels like my kids are sitting ducks.

I know there is a debate right now about keeping unvaccinated (by choice) kids out of schools. I am not convinced we can require everyone to vaccinate, but frankly, I am not arguing against making it mandatory to attend public school – it would certainly make me feel better to know that Jack was that much more protected against a nasty disease that could kill him while going about normal life.

At the same time, I can see the case being made that immuno-suppressed kids be kept out of school, too. I mean, the measles could kill Jack. So why wouldn’t I sequester him?

How can I do that, though? How can I take more away from Jack? He has missed out on so much over the last three years. He has fought so hard to beat cancer and to live as normal a life as possible. He missed half of kindergarten and first grade and so many other days of school, and it has had an impact on his educational performance, as well as his self-esteem. I don’t want to take more away from him!

Further, he’s in danger at places besides school. When I took him to the oncology clinic a couple of weeks ago, we were advised to put a mask on him while in the elevator because there were measles patients being treated at that hospital.

It hadn’t occurred to me that he would be in danger at the oncology office, of all places! And, COME ON! It’s 2015! Measles has no place being on the top 10 list of things I worry about!

In any case, have you ever tried to keep a mask on an 8-year-old? It’s near impossible for longer than 20-30 minutes. And what about a drooling, grabby 5-month-old? That’s just plain crazy-making! (It’s a fun idea for a party game, though.)

So, what I’m saying is…I’m relying pretty heavily on those around me to keep themselves – and us – safe. I’m relying on herd immunity to protect my kids from vaccine-preventable disease because I am powerless at this point.

And, unfortunately, there are many in my community that don’t even think of my kids when they refuse vaccinations. Instead, they think measles is not a big threat to them. They think a vaccine is more dangerous than the disease itself.

All I can think is…is this real life?

Learning to Love Being Good Enough

It wasn’t until yesterday that I really started to comprehend just how differently this school year – and my LIFE – has gone compared to what I had thought it would be. My ideas on parenting have been challenged more than ever before but those challenges have led to a much better understanding of my role as a parent – an imperfectly perfect parent.

Jack attended school two days this week, and I felt proud of those two days. Two days at school is more than he’s done in weeks!

Since I’ve been home with him so much, catching up on work in between talking to doctors, running labs, or checking Jack’s temperature and assessing his symptoms, I’ve even cooked dinner a few times.

Me! Cooking! It’s unheard of! I’m proud of that, too.

I’ve essentially been a stay-at-home mom, a role that I never in a million years thought I could swing. I still don’t know that I could ever do it full-time (if, in fact, I could afford to, which I absolutely can’t), but since circumstances have deemed it appropriate for the time being, that is what I’m doing. And I’m doing a pretty good job. Not only that, but contrary to what I’d previously thought, the part where I’m home without much adult interaction isn’t the part that’s driving me crazy (the part where I don’t know what’s happening from one day to the next definitely is).

“You’re doing an amazing job homeschooling Jack,” his teacher told me last night at our parent-teacher conference.

Oh, is that what I’m doing? I hadn’t really thought of it that way. Is that what they call juggling five million things these days?

I honestly haven’t done much at all to “school” him (unless letting him watch Dr. Who counts). I hand him the schoolwork he needs to do (after rejecting half of the assignments as impossible or not important enough to complete given our situation), get him into it by asking weird questions about the content, and we discuss corrections when necessary. He almost never has to make corrections when it comes to language arts. Math takes more work thanks to chemotherapy, but David is great at working with him on that. I’m no teacher! I don’t even know how I know what I do know, so I pretty much fail at explaining the concepts to Jack. Thank goodness I am not parenting him alone and he makes it to school some of the time!

It’s probably clear I don’t have the most optimistic view of how I’m managing the schooling portion of our life (however! I think I’m doing a great job of keeping him alive!), so I was pleasantly surprised to hear at the conference that Jack is doing really well and is on track to meet (or succeed in some cases) all academic standards. At least, based on the thirteen days he’s made it to school this year (he’s been there 36% of the time!). His teacher had no concerns and really just wanted to share her observations and see if there was anything she could do to make things easier on us.

I love her.

We heard that Jack is a strong writer, as well as a fantastic artist. We knew the artistry part but I hadn’t really thought about him as a writer before, although I realized he’s been doing a lot more writing lately. It was nice to see some work that he’d done at school, which includes some pretty awesome story-telling that isn’t all about Dr. Who. (Maybe someday he’ll be a blogger like his mama!)

wanteddoctor

It’s all Doctor all the time at home.

He is conscientious and well-behaved. He tries hard and when he’s at school, no one can tell anything is going on with him health-wise. He has plenty of friends in addition to the ONE he’s told us about. In fact, when he is late to class, if he can’t quickly figure out where he needs to be, his classmates are totally on top of getting him oriented.

YAY!

Seriously, that was SUCH a relief to hear. I’ve been worried about school but have had so little capacity to do more than what I’ve been doing. It’s nice to have reinforcement that the parenting I’m doing is good enough, especially when I can’t manage anything else!

And, heck, we all might be better off for it.