Drawing the Line

Brooklyn with her mom

Jono Nagel Stories

Brooklyn was 2½ when we went to get her hair cut for the first time.  Her long, blonde, curly hair was reduced to an adorable pixie cut.  She wore it well, but it was not what I pictured for my little girl’s first haircut.

She was a few weeks into her 2½ year chemotherapy treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a blood cancer most common in children.

Eleven months later, after going completely bald, her hair is now slowly growing back.  She recently came across some of the ponytail holders I used to wrap around her beautiful blonde curls every morning and asked me to give her a ponytail.  It broke my heart to tell her that her hair was still too short.

There are a thousand little things I took for granted before Brooklyn was diagnosed.  Having a (now) 3-year-old strong enough to run or walk up stairs, going an entire day without hearing her complain about some kind of pain, watching her play with other kids without worrying about the germs they might share, not having to take her blood sugar or temperature multiple times a day, and disciplining her.

WOW is it hard to discipline a cancer patient three-nager!

When she was in daycare, Brooklyn had a very regular schedule, and she wasn’t the only kid in the room, so she never got to run the show.

At home, we try to create as much structure as we can, and we let her know that she doesn’t get to call the shots, but the circumstances make it so very difficult.

We can’t just let her go hungry if she doesn’t want to eat the food on her plate because we’re worried about her blood sugar getting dangerously low.

We can’t let her run around the house or be more than five feet away from us at the park because injuries have a whole new meaning when she’s going through intense chemotherapy— her body isn’t equipped to fight off infection or heal fast. It’s a constant struggle to decide where to draw the line, what to punish her for and how. Not to mention we make her take down several syringes of medication each day, focus on her physical therapy, use mouthwash to prevent mouth sores, and more.

Brooklyn is smart and she is fierce. She puts up a fight and makes sure we know what she wants. We are happy to be raising a tough, opinionated, competitive, resilient and strong-willed little girl. But damn, is it challenging!

The consolation is that those are the qualities that are pulling her through each and every minute, showing cancer it picked the wrong kid.

Written by Michelle Vaith

Michelle Vaith is a proud mother of two, married to her husband Grant for ten years.  She spends most of her non-working time playing puzzles, walking to the park, and reading books to her kids. Her daughter Brooklyn was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at 2 1/2 years old, and is an inspiration to those who know her story because she is brave, tough and positive despite all she has had to face at such a young age.