Sunday, June 28, 2015

Why Eight is Especially Great

The birthday cowgirl!
Today we threw a Cowgirl Birthday Party to celebrate Julia's 8th birthday!  Yee-haw!

I feel like we've been going non-stop for about three days getting ready for this party - not to mention the four weeks of Pinterest pinning and planning I've been obsessing over. All the work paid off I believe because it was a fabulous day spent with friends and family celebrating our amazing Julia!!

Every birthday is worth celebrating in my book - every birthday is a gift we rejoice over and an opportunity to reflect on how thankful we are to have Julia here. But there is a very specific reason I wanted to celebrate big time for number eight. Beyond marking another year with our precious Jules, beyond celebrating all she has achieved and accomplished and overcome, eight has a special meaning in our story. Eight is significant.

The significance of Julia turning eight is traced back to a moment when Julia was just 9 weeks old and we met with a genetics counselor at Children's Hospital to discuss the findings of her chromosome testing. 

"She has a chromosomal abnormality," the counselor explained to us, "An unbalanced translocation of chromosomes 5 and 6. There are no other documented cases like hers, so Julia will just have to show us what this means for her.  But we have found one case with some similarities, a little girl in Wyoming who developed epilepsy as an infant and leukemia at age 7." 

So, there you go. Two lines in a medical text book - epilepsy and leukemia.  That was the extent of the prognosis they could give us for our precious 9 week old baby girl. That was all the detail available to equip us as we faced the rest of our lives. 

I left that appointment and tried to tell myself Julia was not the little girl in the book, that their differences were as significant as their similarities and the information in this medical text book did not sentence Julia to follow her same path. I tried to tell myself this, but then Julia developed epilepsy as an infant and it became a little harder to believe that "Leukemia at seven" would not be our story as well.

We've done our best in the past eight years to live life fully - growing and developing and at many times blossoming right along side our girl. Learning from her about how to take life one moment at a time and to love each moment for what it is, not what it could or should have been. We've let go of expectations and focused on celebrating the lives we've been given. Julia has taught us this. Julia lives without fear. And I think we have done a pretty good job at this living and loving thing - and we've worked very hard not to let fear cloud our joy. 

But if I am totally honest, "Leukemia at seven" never left my memory. It lingered in the back of my mind, poking my peace and fanning unwanted fears, especially as seven grew near. I would google leukemia symptoms anytime Julia seemed a little off. I'd read up on all the warning signs, especially the rare ones. I'd ask doctors to run tests - just to make sure I didn't miss it's arrival.  One doctor asked me "Why the concern about Leukemia?"  I looked at her as if the answer was so obvious, "Because it was in the book!" As if she knew which book I was talking about. You, know, THE book. The book that told me this could happen to Julia - it's in that book - so can you just do that blood test please?

And now, here we are, and eight has arrived! And it feels significant, like we've made it to something big or past something big. And even though I know that nothing has actually changed over night, that Julia hasn't magically become safer than she was when she was seven, it still feels big. Nothing changed for Julia, but something changed for me - my narrative has shifted, some burdens have lifted -  and that makes this one day pretty darn powerful. That makes this one day worth a big celebration!

Yay for eight! 

Eight is great!



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