The Secret Society

Normal is what you make of it. That which seems boring and sedentary to one human being might summon adrenaline in another. Though nothing in our life is as it was a little over a month ago, a feeling of normality has returned to our family. The days are over-saturated with activities. The kids quarrel, then play, then quarrel again. And Jordan’s indomitable personality holds court upon our house as it has for more than six years. Life at the Vincent homestead feels eerily uninterrupted. Little would anyone know that we have joined a secret society, leading alternative lives.

We didn’t choose to join the Society. It chose us. Within hours of Jordan’s hospitalization the first members sought us out. They offered comfort and counsel through emails, phone calls and personal visits. They were survivors themselves, and they welcomed us to a community of survivorship. They warned us that life would change, but they advised us to be strong and to store up ample quantities of hope and faith. We were too busy coping with Jordan’s condition to pay much attention to the Society. We thanked them and thought to ourselves, “how nice, but we don’t qualify for membership.”

Membership in the Society changes your perspective. It forces you to face menacing fear while unearthing the roots of beauty and aspiration. All the while, you imagine that it’s all a big mistake. You reason that you are hysterical, that your membership application was proffered erroneously. Like an AARP invitation that arrives when you’re only 49, you argue that it’s too early to settle into this new phase of life.

Accepting your status begins the healing process, for in that moment of decision you allow yourself to belong. For our family, the healing process truly began when Jordan returned to the hospital to begin chemotherapy. But it was not the drugs or the exam with her physicians that started the process. It was time spent in a crowded oncology ward, mingling with other parents and children in the Society. Surprisingly, despair was absent. A bright-faced boy, not more than 10 years old, challenged wary opponents to a game of Nintendo. His gallant brown eyes lit up the room as he laughed when lesser-skilled brethren succumbed to his digital dexterity. Never far behind was his IV canister, dripping his chemical cocktail in a slow, steady rhythm. Life surrounded this child with resilience and effused like vapor.

It was this scene that welcomed Jordan into the Society. It didn’t matter that she was about to be poked and prodded, examined and excused. She wanted to sit at the crowded table and get her hands deep in play-dough. While waiting for her appointment she created a painting in the art center and cooked a faux dinner in the toy kitchen. When it was time to visit the doctor, she begged us to bring her back to the playroom when the exam was finished. And when we returned to the hospital two weeks later, the elevator couldn’t travel five floors fast enough. She ran to join her mates in the Society’s main meeting lounge. It was then that we realized that she is neither afflicted nor affected. She is a member. Her life is to play, to learn and to trust in the promise of the future. In this pursuit, she is not alone.

I realize that it has been some time since I last updated you on our family’s journey. No news is generally good news. Our family is healing and coping with distractions that thankfully have nothing to do with cancer. I promise to post again soon.