We’ve all heard the African adage “It takes a village to raise a child.” Grandparents, friends, neighbors, teachers…so many members of our communities pitch in and contribute to the upbringing of our children. A few weeks ago I was reminded that there is a critical member of our village that has been instrumental in the healthy upbringing of my children: their pediatrician. My youngest son had a well visit scheduled at the end of the month and the receptionist from our pediatrician’s office called to reschedule it. I have never been asked to reschedule one of my children’s appointments in the seventeen plus years they have been with their pediatrician, so I knew something was wrong. I tensed up and instinctively knew to brace myself for bad news. Although the receptionist spoke slowly and clearly, I was so nervous that the only words I heard were “an unfortunate turn of events”…”seizure”…”brain tumor”…”cancer.” Our pediatrician had a malignant brain tumor. OH. CRAP.
I welled up in tears and my mind started racing. It was flooded with memories of our pediatrician, especially from a time when I was a brand new mom and desperately needed help. The unwavering, reassuring support she gave me was immeasurable. My oldest son’s first months of life were filled with projectile vomiting, blood in his stool, rashes, hives, eczema, and sleepless days and nights. He slept about two out of every twenty-four hours. No exaggeration. It was difficult and exhausting. Being a new mom can be tough, but dealing with all of this as a new mom was down-right frightening. There was clearly something wrong with my son and I felt like I was failing him because I couldn’t fix it. Our pediatrician put us on the path to accurately identifying my son’s numerous food and medication allergies, which is challenging to do with a child so young. Years later our pediatrician told me my son is the most allergic kid she has ever had in her practice. I would have never guessed this because she dealt with his medical needs so systematically and meticulously. Honestly, I thought she had done it a hundred times before. When I was scared, our pediatrician calmed every one of my fears. I need her and my sons need her. It is that simple. I trust her implicitly. She is intelligent, insightful, and steadfast. She’s also about five feet tall and probably not more than a hundred pounds. Don’t let her size fool you, though. Our pediatrician is as tough as they come. She is no-nonsense and tells it like it is. When it comes to caring for her patients, nothing will stop her. Our pediatrician is the human embodiment of Shakespeare’s quote “And though she be but little, she is fierce.” Honestly, she’s a rock star.
I am not the only mom that thinks our pediatrician is a rock star, by the way. Most of the moms in our small town bring their children to her and feel the same way about her. One mom once told me that if our pediatrician instructed her to throw her baby off a bridge, she would. She explained that since our pediatrician is so knowledgeable and protective of her patients, clearly she must have information about the bridge that the rest of us don’t, like it was going to collapse or something of the sort. I bet most of the moms in our town would throw their babies off a bridge if our pediatrician told them to as well. That’s how much we trust her.
So when news spread of our beloved pediatrician’s cancerous brain tumor diagnosis, the moms in town sprung into action. Within a day of receiving the receptionist’s phone call, a Facebook support group was formed. Hundreds of moms joined. Our rock star pediatrician affectionately dubbed us “mama bears” and kept us updated on her status by posting regularly in our group before her surgery with her characteristic humor and wit. In return, the mama bears posted messages of encouragement and love. Our pediatrician liked them and messaged back. Pictures of her patients, young and old, filled the support group wall to cheer her on. In unity, we wore our pediatrician’s favorite color (blue) on the day of her surgery to show our support and send as much positive energy her way as we possibly could. How did our rock star pediatrician respond? She messaged our group just a few hours after her surgery. One of her doctors added a post-operative photo of our pediatrician smiling, head wrapped in bandages and all. It was amazing. The woman had just undergone brain surgery and she felt the need to let us know she was okay. Two days later our pediatrician posted a picture of herself smiling again, this time as she was about to be discharged from the hospital. She was donning a new headdress and she looked great. What a relief! I guess after spending decades reassuring the moms in our town, our pediatrician knew she couldn’t abandon us now. We needed to know she was okay and she wasn’t going to let us down. I’d like to think that maybe, just maybe, she needed us a little bit too. Perhaps we gave our pediatrician an ever-so-tiny morsel of the comfort she has given us so freely over the years. I don’t know. What I do know is that our rock star pediatrician elevated herself to the level of SUPER HERO rock star pediatrician. How she made the surgical removal of a cancerous brain tumor look easy, I will never know.
All of this got me thinking about the village that raises my children…the people that care for my children, support my children, sacrifice for my children, and yes, love my children. Unquestionably, our pediatrician is a part of this village. An integral part. Why does it take “an unfortunate turn of events” to remind us to tell the members of our village how much they mean to us, how much we care? Are we afraid of seeming overly-emotional? Too sappy? Are we unsure how they will respond? Will our sentiments be rejected? Will they be embarrassed? Will we be embarrassed? I suppose the questions could go on and on. Here’s the thing, though, our super hero rock star pediatrician’s health crisis has changed me. From this point forward, I am going to make a concerted effort to tell the people in our village how much they mean to my family. People should know when they make a difference and that their efforts matter. Seriously, what do I have to lose? Let me start right now by saying “Thank you, Village People!” As we read and share our mom stories in this online community, we become a part of each other’s villages. We support each other and we make each other stronger. That can only be a benefit to our children.
If I can be so bold, may I ask our online mom village to conjure up as much positive energy and prayers for the super hero rock star pediatrician of my town? While her brain tumor has been successfully removed, she will have to undergo radiation and chemotherapy treatments. We all know this won’t be easy. She HAS to kick cancer’s butt, though. Nothing else will do because, frankly, I cannot imagine my sons’ village without her.