Oh, my poor derelict blog. These last few weeks were a whirlwind — nay, maelstrom — of packing and prepping and de-cluttering as we got our house ready to sell. “Got,” past tense, because we’ve got buyers! Didn’t even make it to the open house. So I’m sitting here now in our gorgeously sparse, staged house after having camped out at Alastair’s parents’ place for a week, thrilled to be home and to have everything more or less settled.
I’m also — to my utter surprise — looking forward to re-cluttering this place a bit (but not completely!) so it actually looks and feels like home. Poor Elsa, when we were over here briefly the other day, broke down weeping, saying “It doesn’t look like our house anymore!!” I’m guessing it will take 48 hours of us being back, tops, for it to feel adequately chaotic again.
So, here’s what I’ve been thinking about lately (in addition to how many of the girls’ toys I can get rid of without their noticing…bwah ha ha):
The other night at the kitchen table — Alastair’s parents’ kitchen table, that is — both he and I struggled to help Clio understand the concept of making a number out of various combinations of tens and ones. (e.g. 49 = 0 tens and 49 ones, 1 ten and 39 ones, etc.) Even when we skipped the more conceptual understanding and focused on following the patterns in the sequence, she just couldn’t seem to get it.In general, she struggles a bit with math. She’s not dramatically behind her classmates by any means; she’s doing fine. But she is dramatically behind Elsa, who flies through her homework, and consistently does above grade-level work. So it’s hard not to compare.
The fact is, Clio has always been a little bit behind Elsa in terms of her intellectual (is that what you call it?) development. Elsa was coloring inside the lines earlier, drawing representationally earlier, getting abstract concepts and starting to read earlier.
I’ve always just chalked it up to the wonders of genetic variation. But it feels like the gap has grown much larger since Clio got sick. And I wonder constantly: would it be this way if she hadn’t gotten cancer? And if it does have to do with the cancer, is it simply because she missed a lot of school last year and/or doesn’t have a ton of energy, or is it because — to put it bluntly — the chemo is fucking with her cognitive function?
Because chemo can do that. Especially when it comes to growing children’s brains, and especially those of girls, for some reason. Learning issues and disabilities are a not uncommon long-term or late effect of leukemia treatment. There can be issues with organization/executive function, reading, processing speed, visual memory, understanding math concepts and remembering math facts.
It’s worse when the child has received radiation, and we’re fortunate that Clio hasn’t. But she’s gotten plenty of other nasty stuff, in pretty high doses because of her high-risk profile.
I worry most about the Methotrexate. You know, that fun stuff that give her a major seizure and landed her in the ICU on a ventilator a while back. The stuff she continues to get spinally every 9 weeks and intravenously once a week. It’s known to affect cognitive function, and Clio is getting a crapload of the stuff.
Now, I’m well aware that it’s possible the chemo has NOTHING to do with the fact that Clio is behind her sister academically. Siblings can be remarkably different in that regard (my brother and I were), and it’s not like she isn’t making any progress. She is. Lots, actually, especially with reading.
But still. I can’t help wondering what things would look like if she hadn’t gotten cancer. I don’t go to that place very often, because what’s the point? And it makes me a little sad, thinking back to that tranquil place just before the road forked; before we had to start bathing Clio’s body and brain in poisons to save her life.
Of course, learning disabilities or osteoporosis or fatigue or whatever other effects may be with her for the rest of her life because of her treatment are a small price to pay for the fact that, you know, she’s still here. But as I see Elsa whizzing ahead, I can’t help feeling like Clio’s been cheated out of something.
On the other hand, man, what wisdom and confidence she has gained.
Now, off to scatter toys and crayons and random objects around our house….