So Riley turned two the other day and I’ve been doing some reflecting on how my life has changed so much since she came into it. For starters, Meg and I were never even sure if I could make a baby. The doctors at the National Institutes of Health told me that normally they would have new patients bank sperm before they start such an intensive chemo regimen. They indicated that Burkitt's was such a fast growing and rare cancer that I really didn't have time for it. I was 18 and clearly not looking to make babies, so I didn't think twice. I trusted my doctors and their decision. We just didn’t know any better at the time.
As I got older, I began to wonder though. I became more educated and more involved in the cancer community. I learned that I should have demanded to be given the opportunity. Of course when I got married it came to the forefront. We kind of agreed that if we had problems when we were trying than I would get tested. I never got tested and we honestly never actually tried. We were VERY lucky. It takes some families years to conceive and we didn’t try and were able to; truly amazing. Riley is clearly our little miracle.
I will never forget when the nurse brought Riley over to me…wrapped in the little blanket. I looked at Meg who was still on the operating table..scared, but excited…in my mind..asking her, what the hell do I do now? So, while they were working on Meg, Riley and I went with the nurse and she got her first bath. It was surreal. So many emotions…fear, happiness, apprehension, love. We were responsible for this little angel. It was amazing. Watching Riley grow the last two years has been unreal. I’ve seen her grow into a little lady. I think every parent can relate, but I cannot imagine my life with Riley. Being so involved in the cancer community, I hear about young kids being diagnosed with cancer and my heart aches for them. I cannot imagine any child having to endure what I went through. It’s not fair. I also hear stories of parents (recently a lot of Dads) that are not involved in their children’s lives…and I am perplexed. For me personally, I am drawn to everything about Riley. The touch of her hand, the way she says daddy, the smell of her hair after a bath, to our nightly rituals when I tuck her in. I melt every night when I put her to bed and she puts her head on my shoulder and I sing Amazing Grace in her ear;. I love the way she holds on and hugs me tight.
She started walking at 10 months, so we kind of knew she would be a firecracker, but I embrace that. I love how she is already fearless at the age of two. I think she has a little bit of her dad in her as she never sits still, is always talking to people, loves to be outside, and clearly has an adventurous (crazy) side.
I had the opportunity to spend two days playing Mr. Mom with Riley while Meg and our Nanny were sick. The next day I went back to work and had this feeling in the pit of my stomach. My heart actually ached. I didn’t want to leave her with the nanny. I wanted to stay at home and be with her. I would give anything to be able to stay home everyday and be with her. Now, I’m not saying she is an angel all of the time, she most certainly isn’t. She has temper tantrums and gets super cranky, but I truly cherish every minute with her. I appreciate everything that Riley represents and take nothing for granted. Sadly, I know life is short and every minute we share is special. I am amazed at how smart kids are. She clearly loves Meg and I and she knows that we would do anything for her.
Riley, when you read this in 10 years or so: I just want you to know that you are my heart and soul. You can make the worst day turn into another amazing memory with that contagious laugh and smile. I truly cherish every moment with you, good times and bad. I appreciate that life is short and I will always be there for you, no matter what life throws your way. You are my little angel.