A Letter to Our Oncologist One Year Later

Dearest Dr. Thompson,
One year ago this week, William and I met you, thinking all was well. I’ll never forget you saying how important it was to you that we know you “give a damn about your kid. He isn’t a patient. He is William.” In a world where people rarely see William without seeing Down Syndrome, those words hugged my heart and let me know my son was safe in your care. Relatively speaking, his six month treatment was short and technically uncomplicated but you know that our lives are forever changed. You didn’t want to tell us over the phone; you couldn’t see us looking at each other and holding hands while speaking to you on speaker-phone. You didn’t get to see our faces or watch us hold each other and silently cry the way I did when I was told he may have Down Syndrome. You couldn’t see how your calm manner helped me process and focus as you confirmed what I knew to be true. That must have been hard for you, and I’m sorry. You were so confident and comforting that I was ready and eager to drive to UNC that Tuesday morning.
I find myself missing the familiarity of UNC; all my senses were heightened and the details that are written on my heart may amaze you. What I miss most is the family that you helped create. On our first day, Bowtie Tuesday began. Under your care he learned new words and how to fist-bump. He learned to sit up, to crawl, and to love Taylor Swift. I watched his personality and his body grow. I began to see who William is in those 5 hospital rooms, and you always celebrated the victories with reckless abandon. The nurses and other doctors were his team and you were our coach. A great coach brings out the potential and stands back. You did that for us every week.
You saved William’s life, Patrick. You helped keep our hearts soft and loving in the process.
I think people forget that you are a ‘real person’ too. You have rough days at work, sit in the same traffic, go home to a family and have to keep the details of all your patients’ numbers straight. You did it with grace, but I really treasure the day you came into the room at 5:30 and said, “I’m really tired. It’s been a hard day. Can we save the excitement and full plan for tomorrow after I’ve slept?” Your humanity makes you a great healer.
I have no doubt that you loved my William greatly; as you do each of your patients. You made us feel like he was your absolute favorite and the VIP of the 5th floor.

Now with William sleeping in his bed, unhooked from IVs and with only scars to remember Broviacs and G-tubes, I find myself in the same dilemma as many parents before me. How do you adequately thank a doctor who led your family through cancer? I think the answer will come every time we look at William do something new or change a heart. You played a part in it and can proudly say, “That’s one of my kids.” Thank you for turning an underdog into a Conqueror. Thank you for introducing us to a world we didn’t know we existed and guiding us through it. Thank you for your care, your love and your wisdom. Thank you for teaching me ‘we don’t pay our bills’ and how to turn off the pumps at 2 a.m. Thank you for keeping the dance parties going and for shooting straight. Thank you for keeping us dancing and laughing. Most of all, thank you for being a crucial part of William’s story. Thank you for being used by God as an instrument of healing. If the beginning is this powerful, I can’t wait to see how amazing his life will be. Thank you for helping William conquer. IMG_2977
IMG_3907last chemowilliam letter

With a mother’s appreciation and gratitude,
Kaitlin Erkkila

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Moms– About the Grocery Stores… Let’s Change Them.

Most moms know that mixing kids and grocery shopping is much like mixing Pop-Rocks and Coke– not a good idea if possible but it gives everyone something to watch.

Recently a group of moms and I were in a waiting room and discussed “The Gauntlet”– the 20 feet of check-out that traps our children within arm’s reach of candy, Elsas, Lightning McQueens and especially THE MAGAZINES. One said that her reading, school-aged girls had questions about divorce and if “the best sex tips” would really “snare a guy.” Another mom mentioned that she avoids taking her pre-teen sons specifically during the Swim Suit editions. “I’d drive out of my way to go to a store with healthy options that didn’t use my kids against me or shove airbrushed boobs into my face” one mom said. These are important ‘teachable moments’, but when we are desperately racing against nap time to get toilet paper and bananas, we don’t want to help our kids keep up with the Kardashians. We all know that these images and expectations are negatively impacting our society.

No amount of shielding will keep our kids in a bubble and they do need to learn how to handle life in this culture. These are important conversations and we all know kids will learn.We all complain about it and frankly, it isn’t going away. If we didn’t buy the magazines, the candy, the toys, etc. it wouldn’t be sold. This isn’t about morality… this is about capitalism, pure and simple.

Today I’m not wanting to address the greed of kids, differing parenting approaches to melt-downs, or the junk food. No, it is accepted that the grocery store is carefully designed to separate us from our money with all the advertising genius possible. No, today I had a friendly and delightful conversation with a grocery store manager and told him about the Mom-Council.

I suggested that they open an aisle or two that are kid-friendly. Either put the magazines in stand where only the very top titles are available and tabloids are hidden or put them in only a few aisles. I know I would stand in line for an aisle without magazines, candy, or toys. Would you? If not, fine. No judgement here. The manager actually agreed and mentioned that at overseas military posts and bases the magazines were not in the commissaries (grocery stores) but were put in the Class Sixes, where the booze is sold. The items are still sold but moms get a reprieve.

If the moms aren’t buying the toys and candy, the stores lose money. What’s the incentive? Well, I want to hear from you, Parents. What would you suggest? If every mom I know is at least mildly annoyed by this, can’t we change it? No wonder Amazon Pantry and the grocery pick-ups are growing in popularity.

What are your ideas? I’m interested to see what the brilliant molders of the next generation can come up with.