December, 2001 | Jan Harley

We all were fragile and vulnerable at this point.  Hearing this news was devastating.  Dealing with the day-to-day chemotherapy treatment with Nicole in the hospital was draining.  The whole deal was rotten and tough anyway you looked at it.  Watching your child battle this illness without a peep of complaining or self-pity was surreal.  The helplessness you feel when your child is gravely ill is monumental.  The countless visits to the hospital, follow-up exams, and sleepless nights tossing and turning with uncertainty had left it’s toll on all of us.

I decided to spend the Christmas Holiday with my family in Michigan while Nicole spent Christmas with her Dad.  I found this an opportunity to get away and recharge my batteries with loved ones.  Nicole was scheduled for several more round of chemo before her surgery.  Although being away from Nicole even for a short period of time was hard for me, I felt confident she was in the very best of care with competent Mayo Clinic nurses and physicians.

Getting away from the daily routine of hospital life was a relief.  I didn’t realize how truly worn out and tired I was.  I slept through the entire night for the first time in months. Without the interruption of hospital beeping sounds or nurses bustling through, I was able to finally rest.  I knew I had to take care of myself and renew my energy in order to get through this next phase of her treatment.

The Christmas holidays this year had a much different tone to them.  Although I loved being home in Michigan with my family and sharing this festive season for the first time with Al, in the back of my mind I was constantly focused on Nicole.  The traditions of the holiday such as putting up the Christmas tree, baking cookies and wrapping presents all had an overtone of sorrow to me.  It was almost like I was in a bubble floating around in a haze looking out at the daily activities going on but not being fully engaged in them.  I realized I was depressed and I needed to rest and focus on myself and work on embracing a positive and hopeful day-to-day life. I was determined to build up my confidence and stamina in order to face the process of Nicole’s below the knee amputation.

I found myself alone at my folk’s house sitting next to a crackling fire in the fireplace and watching the sparks leap around the wood beckoning them to play. I had brought a school assignment Nicole had completed about Martin Luther King. Nicole had always had a strong interest in the life of Martin Luther King and was fascinated by his love for freedom and equality for all people; regardless of their ethnic or religious background. As I read her narrative, it suddenly dawned on me, Nicole’s surgery was set for January 21, 2002, Martin Luther King Day.

As I pondered this, a thought came into my mind. Nicole was giving up her leg in order to gain freedom from bone cancer. I couldn’t believe it. The word freedom resonated in my mind like the chiming of thousands of church bells swinging back and forth. The correlation of losing something to acquire freedom was very introspective at that moment. I knew in my heart Nicole would lose her leg yet win her freedom over the battle with bone cancer.