Six years. SIX. It’s been six years since we were handed Cooper’s diagnosis. This morning I watched Cooper’s uneven, labored gait as he walked away from me and I had a sudden twinge of sadness. The scar from his spinal decompression surgery two summers ago glared at me from the back of his neck. I watched my sweet eight year old start toward the steps. Today it’s too much work to walk down them, so he sits down and bumps down each one on his butt. He’s wearing Christmas PJs that fit a normal four year old. He has become more mature with his questions and thoughts, and his face looks older. But he’ll always be this size. When I pick Cooper up from school and see his third grade classmates, the kids are giant! It’s now VERY apparent Cooper is different. I think the difference affects me more than him, and I hope it stays that way. He’s doing age appropriate things (and that’s what’s important), I just don’t want him to ever outgrow snuggles with mama.
We’ve been hunkering down and masking up during the pandemic. Theoretically, Cooper is at an elevated risk of serious complications, should he catch COVID. We’ve mindfully chosen how and where we interact and are walking the line of enough interaction to keep everyone sane, while staying safe. The one thing that hasn’t changed is infusions at Children’s Hospital Colorado (CHCO) – we still go once a week. We check in at 9 AM and leave by 4 PM. A couple weeks ago, we walked in and it was like the scene from the 80’s TV show, “Cheers” – NORM! Everyone at the screening desk, the volunteers at check in and admissions staff all lit up and greeted us when Coop walked in. Our weekly hospital visits haven’t changed, it’s been our one place of normalcy. Isn’t that crazy? Cooper’s rare disease treatment is the one shred of familiarity during the quarantine. I’ll take it. We cherish our CHCO family. Last week we were lucky to be at infusion the day that CHCO staff arranged a ZOOM call with Colorado College (CC) hockey players and CHCO patients. Coop and one other little boy got to play a word game with the CC players, then do some Q and A. Cooper was beaming, laughing, being a ham! He sat up straight and participated and was so stickin’ happy. The players were animated, kind and fun. I profusely thanked the CHCO staff and CC players for their time and involvement in such a fabulous activity. One of the CC players asked a friend on the Colorado Avalanche to record a video for Coop. The CHCO staff sent it to me, and I nearly died. The Av said that he and the Av’s are all behind Coop, praying for him and rooting for him. Queue the big mama tears. Coop was starstruck. We were exposed to a bit of what the hockey family was like two years ago when we got to spend time with the University of Denver hockey players, but we’re experiencing this hockey family more and more now, and they are lifting us up.
In October, Cooper tried sled hockey for the first time at an event put on by Aces Hockey Academy (where Campbell attends fifth grade) and Colorado Sled Hockey. Although his arms weren’t strong enough to pull him, Cooper quickly made friends and the hockey family stepped up to push him around, make sure he had a great time, and help him succeed at playing sled hockey.
And here our hockey family grows again. Dawg Nation (a non-profit providing hockey families assistance and opportunities during times of crisis) has reached out and wants to provide special fun and support for Cooper and our family. We are humbled and honored to the recipient of their time, talent and our community’s generosity. Visit Cooper’s Dawg Nation page to help. Feel free to share the Dawg Nation link or this blog link if you are so moved.
Flashback to six years ago – a devastating diagnosis for our 16 month old son. We’ve seen five surgeries and recoveries. We know how to handle weekly infusions. We move through the world and change it to accommodate Coop. Today we deal with the physical and emotional challenges as they come. I think this is the first year I can say that. Before now, I’ve been so concerned about what IS to come. Time for a new mindset. Now we aim to celebrate every day, and live in the now. We are grateful to Dawg Nation for our upcoming celebration! January 30 (diagnosis day) usually brings me such sadness, I am delighted to have fun news to share on this year’s diagnosis anniversary. Cheers to our hockey family!