Normal boy

“I want to be a normal boy.”  

This was on repeat last night. 

We knew this time in his life would come. It was a matter of time. Turns out the time is 4 years. Clocking in at 9 years old.

Jacob’s relationship with cancer has been so different than yours and mine. And I feel comfortable speaking to you as if you have been touched by cancer because statistically speaking the odds are…YES you have. 

But Jacob’s understanding and experience with cancer are different than ours.

Prior to being diagnosed, his dad got cancer, went into the hospital, and came back cancer free 2 weeks later. That was only 6 months prior to his diagnosis so still fresh. Still a topic of conversation at a dinner party. Jacob knew the word cancer. 

Even during his own cancer,  Jacob’s relationship was different.  Eight months into treatment, Jacob whispered in my ear so a boy at the table next to us couldn’t hear.

 “I’m lucky I have cancer, look, mom, that boy is broken.”

Said boy had a cast on his arm. I even remember looking over at the boy; his mom and he were looking right back at us. I wonder if they were having the same conversation as they whispered about the bald thin boy. 

Jacob spoke about cancer with genuine acceptance and something he “does” just like your kid does baseball. Like today. It’s scan week. 

“Today your getting a line put in and then a 90-minute scan.” 

His response? “Mom I know! Your blocking the TV. Move.”

But lately, there is a new cry. A cry for normalcy.

“I want to be a normal boy.”

Cancer “ruined his life.”  Jacob has come to believe that if he didn’t have cancer he would be “normal.” People would treat him differently and he would be skinny and excellent at soccer. He reports that people are just being fake nice.  That they don’t want to sit with him at lunch. 

He is sad and also angry. He vacillates between the two emotions within seconds. 

My response was clear. “That will never happen. You will never be a normal boy.”

Long pause. Jacob’s eyes are full of tears. His eyebrows furrow deeply. 

“Have you met your parents?! This is an impossibility for you.”

Jacob rolled his eyes. Now he’s annoyed.

But I’m dead serious.

I repeat it again. “You will never be normal. That is not in the cards. And why would you wish for such a terrible thing?”

Now he’s angry and (of course) screaming (level 11). “What terrible thing did I wish for?!”

“To be a normal boy. What does a normal boy look like and do even? Does a normal boy live at sea and adventure? Does a normal boy have a bunny living in his bathroom? 

And I can go on…which I did, but it all backfired. 

He’s not Benno. There is no reasoning with him. He hates being wrong and now he is furious at me.


Luckily he has therapy tomorrow. I clearly suck at this. I just wish I could share with him all that I learned when processing his cancer. I want him to skip all the pain. The “What if” game you will play in your mind. It will not serve him and will torment him. But maybe its the only way to find your own truth. 

That there is no such thing as a normal boy.

Cancer happened.

And you suck at soccer, and, yes, have a passion for eating.

But you are the funniest, smartest, and STRONGEST kid anyone has ever met.

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