Kyle does a great job of telling Cathleen's all-too-short story:
It's the birthdays that hurt the most.
Some may find that surprising. Really, it stands to reason that the day she died would be the worst day in the history of our lives. And, for a time, it was. And it still hurts.
But the birthdays are the worst. Cathleen Mary Rudgers only had two birthdays of her own. The first, February 14, 2005, was the day she was born. She cried a little, but when they put this solid but squirming ball of flesh into my arms she just looked in my direction. She didn't smile, really, but even though I know she physically couldn't see me, she was looking right at me. It was a look of hope, of promise, and, at least in my mind, enduring love.
Taking a look at this little girl, you would never know that there could possibly be anything wrong with her. She crawled on cue. She pulled herself up on cue. And at Christmas, she was beginning - just beginning - to let go and stand on her own.
Like any little kid, she got her share of colds, fevers, tummy aches and the like. From the time she was born, she also had a constipation problem that went away. She grew fine. She was blonde and beautiful like her mother, and smiled all the time.
Her other birthday was the day she turned one. It came one month - almost exactly - after the day in January when she woke up and couldn't pull herself up. She couldn?t, because she couldn't use her legs. Prior to that point, she had started to have painful constipation - which didn't concern us or the doctors as that had been something she had from her earliest days. She had begun to throw up from time to time, and become a little more lethargic. But it was January, prime flu season, and she was in day care. So what was the worry?
The worry was that she now couldn't move her legs. This active, fun, funny girl was now effectively paralyzed.
She was exactly 11 months old when the doctor came to us in the hospital and told us that her spine was packed with tumor, that there was tumor that was adhered to her brain stem, and that removing more that 30% of it would probably kill the patient.
By the time we got to February 14, 2006, we were in Children's Hospital, getting first-rate treatment by first-rate doctors. She had balloons, presents, grandparents, a cake -- everything except health.
But never underestimate the fight in a calm, pleasant child. The chemotherapy didn't work, so we tried an experimental medication. While in the hospital, she contracted meningitis. We were told that we should start preparing for the worst. She came back from that and regained her good humor.
And on July 26, 2006, we were told, as she slipped into a coma at home, that she would likely not make it through the night. Good natured to the end, she made it to noon on July 29 so her entire family could say goodbye.
So yes, July 29 is a painful day. But while the love endures, the promise of February 14, 2005, which looked so bright, will forever remain unfulfilled. And that hurts the most.
|Kari Ardolino Rudgers||$40.00|
|Denotes a Team Captain|