By Emily Cappo for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers
Moments after we arrived at our temporary apartment at Christopher’s Haven, a little girl with a blonde bob poked her head out of the door to see who was moving in. Seconds later, she bopped down the hall to meet us and seconds after that, she asked my son if he wanted to play with her in the communal playroom. Her mother immediately apologized for her assertiveness, explaining that they had been the only family living on the hallway for the past two weeks. Her daughter was starved for interaction with another kid.
Playing hard to get, my son declined and said, “maybe later.” He didn’t dare tell her that the real reason he didn’t want to play was because his uncle was already inside the apartment hooking up the used XBox machine that he managed to purchase at a bargain price. My son and I both knew that the XBox was going to be a key component to saving our sanity over the next six weeks living away from the usual comforts of home.
As we quickly discovered, the girl who lived next door to us on the hallway was named Ava [name changed to protect identity]. I knew Ava was there to receive proton radiation just like my son because that was why families stayed at Christopher’s Haven, an organization that provided housing to out-of-town families receiving this treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. I didn’t know what her diagnosis was, but to me she looked healthy, strong, and completely un-phased by her illness. And she had more energy than five girls combined. I guessed she was about the same age as my son, around 8 or 9. I also assumed that she was in the early stages of treatment or perhaps she was wearing a wig or else maybe she did not have to endure as extensive a treatment regimen as my son.
I was wrong.