Chapter 7

In the spring of 1978, the drugs did cause Jeff's hair to fall out, but how beautifully he accepted this! He was a little boy who had taken great pride in brushing his hair with his 'Superman' brush, but now he proudly proclaimed he looked just like 'Kojak', a bald actor on television. Only his mommy and daddy really knew how much he was hurting inside. When the children at school would tease him, he would quietly explain to them what had happened, and eventually the jeers eased some what. The teachers were amazed at his acceptance of everything. Many times they commented to us how Jeff had matured beyond his years and was handling numerous problems by himself. However, many, many times after I would drive him to school, I would return home and cry and cry for my brave little soldier. As time went by, I could see how Jeff too was gaining strength from his faith in God. When he'd say his prayers at night, he would in such a sweet, simple way ask Jesus to please help him.

Easter Sunday is a day that stands out in my mind. We had gone to church in the morning and then Mom, Faye, Terry, and Robin joined us for dinner and the afternoon. As we sat visiting in the living room listening to gospel music on the stereo, Jeff would come and lay his head in my lap. When he'd get up to go and play, my lap would be completely covered with a coating of soft, little, blonde hairs. That evening, after the others had gone to church and I had stayed home to settle the boys in bed as Jeff seemed very tired, I knelt by the love seat. In my hands I held the little brown patent leather shoes Jeff had worn the previous fall when he was ring bearer, and I just cried and cried. It seemed the sobs were never going to stop. Jeff losing his hair was a very traumatic thing for me to cope with; I did not want his looks to change -- I didn't want him to be hurt any more!

The following Sunday morning Jeff wore the new little red baseball cap we'd bought him to Sunday school. Jamie had a new blue one. It was so comical the next Sunday morning, to stand at the back of the auditorium and see four or five little red baseball caps on tiny heads. To the church kids, Jeff was quickly becoming their hero. It took a few days for Jeff's hair to come out completely, and in that time span, it was in his food, all over his pillow, in his mouth and his ears. Jamie remarked one day, "You can't even eat in this house any more with all this fluff in the air!" We had all been trying to spare Jeff's feelings about his 'new look' but once again, Jamie's childlike honesty gave us all, especially Jeff, a hearty laugh and greatly eased the tension. Also, I might add that Jamie was the one and only person who got away with referring to his brother as 'skinhead'.

Matthew 10:30 reads, "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered". I used to tease Jeff about this scripture when he'd wake up each day with less hair than he'd had when he went to bed the night before. We'd laugh at how it must be keeping Jesus 'busy to keep track', and yet what a good feeling it gave us to know God cared enough about us that He did know how many hairs we all had, including Jeff. It was so important to try and keep a sense of humor about things. We had always been a family who laughed a lot and we tried desperately to hang on to this.

Treatments continued and we were so grateful that Jeff was kept from many of the side effects of the drugs such as nausea, fever, and infections. He became extremely ill from one of the drugs, which we felt was a good average considering he was on a total of eight different drugs. A few hours after this one particular drug was administered to him, he would vomit constantly for twelve hours. He was such a nice boy -- he would apologize profusely if he didn't make it to the bathroom in time or if he was sick on his bedding. It really upset him to cause us trouble in any way. Jeff commented once on the fact that if he weren't sick, our family would be a lot happier, and made a remark to the effect that we would really be better off without him. I quickly reassured him that we were a family who stuck together no matter what, and that I knew if it had been me who was sick instead of him, I could count on his support. He quickly agreed and seemed to accept this answer.

Food was a constant source of pleasure to Jeff. He loved to go to restaurants, especially McDonald's. He could clean off a 'Big Mac' faster than the rest of us, and then grin as he coaxed for more. It was great to see him enjoy his food. The doctors warned us many times after treating him with a new drug that he might become very ill. However, he'd come home, eat an enormous supper, go to bed and sleep the night through. Then early in the morning, he'd be shaking me awake, saying, "Hey, Mom, I'm starved. How about some bacon and eggs?" I thank God for His goodness in this respect and am simple enough in my faith to believe that this too was an answer to our prayers.

Jeff had to have many lumbar punctures when they would remove fluid from his spine and replace it with a drug to destroy any cancerous cells that might be accumulating in the brain. He was awake for these spinal taps, and had to curl up into a little ball for the doctors to complete their task. When he'd say his prayers the night before this treatment, he'd say, "Jesus, please make tomorrow another tickle", and when the time came for the treatment to take place, he would climb up on the table, trusting Jesus with all his heart. Afterwards, he would come out to the waiting room to his very anxious mommy and daddy who were not allowed to be with him for this treatment. He'd usually be all smiles. One of the other mothers had told me it took four staff members to hold her little one down every time he had a lumbar puncture. The doctors themselves admitted it was a very painful procedure. Jeff confided to me that it really helped to hold his favorite nurse's hand while he went through this "cause she's almost as good at it as mommy is".

One day after Jeff had been examined by the doctors, he jumped off the examining table and ran over to his 'favorite nurse' and climbed up on her lap. It made me so happy to see him do this because I realized he was beginning to trust the staff more. Jeff was quite a shy boy, and making new friends didn't come easily to him, but once he was your friend, he was your friend for life. He tried so hard to be good; it would have been so much more difficult for us to accept his treatments if it were not for his attitude. On the days we were to travel to Ottawa, Jeff would be the first one to hop in the car all smiles because he was looking forward to seeing his friends at the Clinic. I must confess I never looked forward to it.

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This page was created April 21st 1997. It is maintained by Jonathan McMillan and Joan McMillan