“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms – to choose ones attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – Victor Frankel, Psychologist and Holocaust Survivor.
I dedicate this post to the people who embody this quote to an extent that most of us cannot imagine. These are the parents of Chai Lifeline. They are a courageous group of people who I have the honor of meeting and being inspired by every day. It is imperative to understand that no parent chooses for their child to become ill. This is not something for which people plan or prepare for. They are suddenly thrown into a new world of medical lingo, meeting with doctors, being woken up at early hours to be on time for doctors rounds, dealing with dressing changes, being responsible for dispensing medication, staying up all night, and having to beg your child to eat in hopes it will give them some much needed strength. Yet no matter how long a parent endures this way of life, they never get used to it. Every appointment, procedure, hospital admittance, and treatment is as horrifying and scary as the first time.
These parents are forced to live by these words in order to get through the daily challenges they face while taking care of their children who are suffering from chronic and/or life threatening illnesses. I meet with parents in the hospital, and see firsthand the way some Moms put on a face of armour in front of their children, and it is only when I meet them for coffee in the lobby that they allow themselves to really breakdown in tears. I have asked people how they keep it together and they always say something to the effect of, “ I need to be strong for my child, the last thing he needs is the guilt of knowing how their illness is impacting the rest of our family.”
One of the most admirable traits I see that really is almost universal to all Chai parents is their selflessness. They have no choice but to put everything else aside and become their child’s biggest advocate. Often when speaking to parents alone, it is very clear that underneath their mask of positivity, confidence, and reassurance, they are consumed with fear and worry for their child. They are absorbed in thoughts like; How will he respond to treatment? Are we making all the correct decisions? Are we pushing too hard? Or perhaps the opposite; Are we being too easy on him? Are we doing what’s best for him? How will all this affect him in the future?
They know they need to find the inner strength to put on a smile, get up in the morning and make it a good day for themselves and their child. They get dressed. Go for a jog. Even laugh at the silly stuff. They choose to continue living and fighting.