Like so many childhood cancer families we mark time by a different clock or calendar than other families do. There’s the last picture before diagnosis, his first and presumably last Christmas, the only birthday party we thought we’d have. The first time he coded, the day he walked without a walker, the second time he coded, the day he had his leg lengthened, the day he walked without his walker round 2, So now we’re acknowledging (certainly not celebrating) that today is the three year anniversary of Peter’s leg amputation, which will be followed, of course, with the day he walked without his walker round 3. I could go on-and-on. But so could all of the other cancer families we know.
Tonight we’re heading to the fair. Three years ago the Harleysville Jaycees, the Lions Club and a host of lovely people in our town treated Peter to the fair of his dreams, he rode and ate and played those wallet-emptying games that all fairs have. He stayed out late and he laughed like there was no tomorrow, he wished there was no tomorrow and I feared it too.
We left early in the morning for the hospital, he was fasting and so were we. When they came to take him to the OR our hearts sank. He said, no I don’t want to go and our tears started. As is our usual routine I entered the OR with him, we paused in the hallway so I could mask and I was unable to tie it. The nurse had to do it for me because I was shaking. Peter asked me if my mask tasted like cotton candy and I said no. He said I was lucky because if it did I would fall asleep and when I woke up my leg would be gone.
We entered the OR and he transferred onto the table. The anesthesia team placed his mask and he started taking deep breaths. He looked up at me and said I’m going to fall asleep now and when I do they’re going to cut my leg off, what will ever become of me? I told him that his friend Gary was going to make him the best prosthetic leg ever, that everyone loved him and was rooting for him, and that his life was going to be amazing! The anesthesiologist said, “he’s mine now mom and I turned to leave the room. At the foot of the table stood his wonderful surgeon with outstretched arms. I wept harder than the first time he coded and unable to see I was lead from the room; I was taken back to the pre-op waiting area where Dennis and my sister sat, sobbing.
When we were able to collect ourselves we left for the next waiting area, a few hours later the surgeon briefed us on the path taken during surgery and what to expected when we were reunited; I so appreciate a doctor that loves my child so much that he delivers his briefing with tears streaming down his face. The time in the PACU was a torture for Peter to endure and for us to watch. He amazed us with his strength and bravery in the days that would lie ahead. He earned his nickname, “Peter Powerhouse” over and over.
A year later he founded the non-profit that bares his name and he has spent everyday since answering his own question, what will ever become of me? His days are harder than most other kids for sure, but he spends them improving the lives of other children. He hosts blood drives, delivers meals, wagons, shirts and encouragement. He speaks at schools, churches and the meetings of businessmen. He has written a book and his journey has been documented in the newspaper, magazines, online articles, news stories and books. He hosts fundraising events and others host them on his behalf. This year he will deliver $250K worth of specialized goggles to area hospitals to make MRI scans safer and easier for kids with cancer. He’s adding balloons for inpatient cancer kids and medical research to his list.
Tomorrow we journey back to the same hospital for a wheelchair fitting and the lengthening of his prosthetic leg. On Friday his school is hosting a walk that will benefit his foundation and Saturday he will take part in the community parade. But tonight he’s just a teenage boy like all the rest that will be at the Harleysville Fair. I think it’s fair to say that his life is truly amazing. I’m proud of you, Peter Powerhouse! Happy, third tumor-free, anniversary !
Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.
Charles R. Swindoll