Playing With Others: Smiles and Giggles

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 "Grandpa's Second Chance, Courtesy of His Little Angel"

By the end of May (2010), Asher was seven months old, crawling and had cut his first tooth. He was also tagging along with his big sister to her Gymboree Art and Music classes.

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Atia was 32 months old and doing really well. She was feeling good and actively playing, especially outside when Chicago was blessed with some beautiful days here and there.

While her physical and mental skills were strong, we weren't sure about her social skills. Due to her weak immune system throughout treatment, she had been kept away from other children (and adults) on several occasions. To make matters worse, Steve and I often found ourselves catering to Atia's every whim. Let's face it, Atia was used to getting her way; we gave in a lot, but I think most loving parents in our situation would have too.

Of course, isolation and pampering doesn't exactly make for the most social, willing to share, patient little girl. We felt a true sense of urgency to get her around other kids, thus the Gymboree classes. It was a slow process for Atia, laced with frustration, anger and defeat but within a few weeks, she was interacting nicely with the other children. We were so relieved!

The end of May marked Atia's monthly chemo injection into her port.

The moment we arrived in the treatment room, Atia was asking to pick a toy from the Treasure Chest; a dessert-before-dinner kind of gal. The Treasure Chest is sponsored by an amazing non-profit charity called, The Pediatric Oncology Treasure Chest Foundation.

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The big white toy box is full of wonderful items. Atia loves digging through and touching each one until she discovers the perfect puzzle, doll, or board game. I firmly believe it's the prevailing reason why Atia is willing to participant in her treatment. It is hands down the BEST motivator; every pediatric treatment room should have one.

It's the least these children deserve for being so brave while enduring their painful treatment.

And brave she was, not a single tear. She sat in the big turquoise chemo chair all by herself and held her shirt collar down so that Ms. Mary (her favorite nurse) could access her port. Then, she sat quietly while observing the process. When it was time to dislodge the needle, we distracted her and she didn't even bat an eyelash. She was delighted when she saw the 'Dora the Explorer' Band-Aid being placed over her port.

She hopped off the chair and quickly rushed over to the kids' table to play house with another little girl awaiting her treatment. I smiled proudly as I watched her with her newfound social skills. There she was playing so nicely with a little girl she had never met, but who became a fast friend, as a result of their common circumstance.

What happened next was so heartwarming; it's one of my favorite moments in Atia's journey.

Dr. Rubin, Atia's pediatric oncologist, a busy man, an important man who is highly respected in his field by colleagues and parents alike, walked over to the table. And while towering over it, gracefully pulled out one of the tiny chairs, and gently lowered himself into its seat.

He grabbed a plastic figurine and in his best falsetto asked, "Can I come into the house? I want to play." Within moments, the girls were giggling and giving his doll a hard time. He had seamlessly entered into their world of imagination.

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Dr. Rubin is an incredible doctor, with an amazing bedside manner. He respects his young patients, and he knows the importance of building trust with them. And, what better way to do it than through play?

Atia loves Dr. Rubin. 

Even though the reason we typically see him is because she's getting chemo, having a spinal tap or some virus has complicated matters, she's not afraid of him, actually it's quite the opposite. She gets a big smile when she sees him and giggles when he "plays with her legs" (aka, performs a physical exam).

Fun is not a word I'd associate with Atia's treatment, but somehow like a magician, Dr. Rubin makes Atia smile.

He's more than just our hero; he's one of the many guardian angels disguised as humans here on earth.

My Next Entry > "Call Me Crazy"


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  • Ahhh, now I love Dr. Rubin too. What a special human being.

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