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Mary Tyler Mom

What Can I Write To Make My Adoption Dream Come True?

Posted 01.23.2013 | Parents

This is the twentieth post of "30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days," a series designed to give a voice to people with widely varying experiences, includi...

Donna's Cancer Story: So You Want to Help

Sheila Quirke | Posted 12.02.2012 | Parents
Sheila Quirke

From the bottom of my broken, damaged heart, I thank you. I am indebted to you for bringing me into your home and cubicle and soccer field and car and kitchen. Know that what you've done, willingly witness Donna's life and death, took guts. You did it. You are amazing. Never forget that.

Donna's Cancer Story: The End

Sheila Quirke | Posted 12.01.2012 | Parents
Sheila Quirke

At bedtime, Donna said to me out of the blue, "Why am I worried I'm dying?" Donna told me she was hearing things her body was telling her.

Donna's Cancer Story: Choosing Hope

Sheila Quirke | Posted 11.30.2012 | Parents
Sheila Quirke

As much as I hoped for a healthy Donna, there were other things I hoped, and still hope for. Hope that there will be another day with Donna. Hope to find the joy in life. Hope to not become bitter or angry. Hope that Donna would find the world a lovely, beautiful, wondrous place.

Donna's Cancer Story: Whiplash

Sheila Quirke | Posted 11.29.2012 | Parents
Sheila Quirke

When you are new to treatment, you turn away from the sobbing, wailing parents in the halls because their pain is too close, too scary and too unbearable. It is their pain, not your pain, and you don't want to be near it. Until it is your turn and it becomes your pain.

Donna's Cancer Story: The Bubble

Sheila Quirke | Posted 11.28.2012 | Parents
Sheila Quirke

To be with Donna could be heartbreaking, and sometimes impossible, if we allowed ourselves to think about her death. We learned to detach from the reality of her dying in her presence. I think, if we were different parents, it could have easily gone the other way -- detaching from Donna. That was unacceptable.

Donna's Cancer Story: Terminal

Sheila Quirke | Posted 11.27.2012 | Parents
Sheila Quirke

I put on blue rubber gloves to protect my skin from the poison I stirred into her pudding and ice cream. God help me. It is heart-wrenching to spoon-feed your daughter poison that you know, at its optimum, will provide a few more weeks to her cruelly young life. But that is precisely what we did.

Donna's Cancer Story: Infection

Sheila Quirke | Posted 11.26.2012 | Parents
Sheila Quirke

You see, the wind blew with Donna's health. When she was well, we were well. When she struggled, we struggled. She had no inclination to wallow in or pity her situation. She wanted to live. She knew, intuitively, that life was a privilege and she did not waste a moment of hers.

Donna's Cancer Story: Blooming in Bloomington

Sheila Quirke | Posted 11.25.2012 | Parents
Sheila Quirke

The Propofol looked like milk snaking its was through Donna's "tubey" into her port. Within seconds, I would watch her nod off as I whispered into her ear, "Never forget that you're amazing."

Donna's Cancer Story: Proton, Here We Come

Sheila Quirke | Posted 11.24.2012 | Parents
Sheila Quirke

Most of the other guests at Jill's House were older men receiving proton for their prostate cancer. These folks quickly became like extra grandparents to Donna and Mary Tyler Son. There was always a set of arms wanting to hold and moon over the baby. It was a Brigadoon in Cancerville.

Donna's Cancer Story: Surgery 4.0

Sheila Quirke | Posted 11.23.2012 | Parents
Sheila Quirke

"Donna, I've noticed a lot lately that you don't always listen to me. I have to repeat myself and it's frustrating." Her response, quick as a whip, was, "You know, Mama, I want to go to the park every day and sometimes it rains." Suck it up, Mom, I'm 3, was the subtext. God, I love that girl.

Donna's Cancer Story: It's a Boy!

Sheila Quirke | Posted 11.22.2012 | Parents
Sheila Quirke

Donna developed a fever and we were told to bring her in to the ER. It was 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve and there was a blizzard happening. Poor Mary Tyler Dad was out in the alley trying to push the car and I was inches from delivery and trying to steer the car with my big belly in the way.

Donna's Cancer Story: The North Pole

Sheila Quirke | Posted 11.21.2012 | Parents
Sheila Quirke

As we exited the plane, rows of Chicago firefighters and police officers gave the kids standing ovations. I lost it -- tears, sniffles, undisguised emotion. Something about these men and women who put their lives on the line daily saluting these sick kids really moved me.

Donna's Cancer Story: Chemo 2.0

Sheila Quirke | Posted 11.20.2012 | Parents
Sheila Quirke

After a checkup to ensure Donna's brain wasn't swelling from the drugs, our oncologist asked her, "How is it that you are as sweet as you are?" Donna considered that question a moment, turned to look at me, and responded: "Because I love my Mommy and Daddy so much."

Donna's Cancer Story: Relapse 3.0

Sheila Quirke | Posted 11.19.2012 | Parents
Sheila Quirke

How to reconcile the girl in our photos, our beautiful Donna, with the photos the doctors order, those inside her body? How, as a parent, do you make sense of what you see in front of you and what the doctors tell you is happening?

Donna's Cancer Story: Dance Class

Sheila Quirke | Posted 11.18.2012 | Parents
Sheila Quirke

Getting Donna into dance was one of the ways we chose hope, the mantra that had guided our Cancer Parenting since diagnosis. Choosing hope meant believing that Donna would enjoy her classes, make it to the recital, shine on a stage like the star she was, and live.

Donna's Cancer Story: Surgery 3.0

Sheila Quirke | Posted 11.17.2012 | Parents
Sheila Quirke

"Watching your child undergo major surgery is like labor. You forget how bad it was the last time around in order to do it again, as needed."

Donna's Cancer Story: Relapse 2.0

Sheila Quirke | Posted 11.16.2012 | Parents
Sheila Quirke

When you are charged with waiting, you know that your life will take on an unbearable quality. Everything around you becomes a more intense version of itself. The sky is bluer, the flowers more brilliant. You want to capture everything and commit it to eternity. Just in case.

Donna's Cancer Story: Mother's Day

Sheila Quirke | Posted 11.14.2012 | Parents
Sheila Quirke

When you go through cancer treatments with your child, you meet some of the best people you will ever know.

Donna's Cancer Story: Spring

Sheila Quirke | Posted 11.13.2012 | Parents
Sheila Quirke

being with Donna was like being with a Zen guru. She was completely open to and aware of the beauty around us in everyday life. "We are out in the beautiful world!" "Look at the sun! Look at the clouds! Look at the trees!"

Donna's Cancer Story: Family Portrait

Sheila Quirke | Posted 11.12.2012 | Parents
Sheila Quirke

My heart breaks a little whenever I see these photos. I ache for the family that was. I want to protect our naivete. While I can't do that, I can remember the family we were. I can see our joy and our love and marvel at Donna's beauty and light. All of those things are intact. Still, today, intact.

Donna's Cancer Story: Recovery

Sheila Quirke | Posted 11.11.2012 | Parents
Sheila Quirke

Donna was making up for eleven months of slogging through the muck of cancer. She was 2 and wanted to play and play and play. Skinny and pale with sunken eyes, Donna came back to us. She had never been more beautiful.

Donna's Cancer Story: Transplant, Part II

Sheila Quirke | Posted 11.10.2012 | Parents
Sheila Quirke

I cannot describe what it is like to see your child suffer and know that you are incapable of making it better.

Donna's Cancer Story: Transplant, Part I

Sheila Quirke | Posted 11.09.2012 | Parents
Sheila Quirke

As I was packing for the transplant stay, I pulled out the Wonder Woman cards and Donna grabbed the one at her head where Wonder Woman is holding open the jaws of a dinosaur. Donna looked at it and said, "She's going to fight that beast away, but right now it's scary." Amen, Donna.

Donna's Cancer Story: Harvest

Sheila Quirke | Posted 11.08.2012 | Parents
Sheila Quirke

You know your kid is sick when you're jealous of another kid's cancer.