Reflections on Faith & Life for the Years of Winter…
Our grandson, Joe, was diagnosed with liver cancer when he was 15 months old. The pediatrician in Mason City, IA, where we lived, said, “I was just at a conference where the head of pediatric oncology at Children’s Hospital at University of Iowa gave a talk. I was really impressed with her. I’m going to call down there.”
He did. Even though Sue O’Dorisio, MD, PhD, was head of the department, just by chance, and probably because everyone else had gone home, she answered the phone. “Bring him down right now,” she said.
So Katie and Patrick left his four year old sister with us, and got into their car and drove 175 miles and arrived at the hospital in the middle of the night. By rules of the hospital, Dr. O’Dorisio was Joe’s personal physician now, just because she was the first contact. She was with them every step of the way through Joe’s long, long year of chemo and surgeries that put him in harm’s way and so near death so many times. 
Yesterday, Katie called the flower shop in Iowa City to have flowers delivered to Dr. O. The flower woman asked what should go on the card. Katie said, “Joe Kennedy started college.”
There was a long pause, and the woman said, “You’ve called here a lot over the years.” “Yes,” said Katie, I sent Dr. O’Dorisio flowers when the cards said, “Joe Kennedy started kindergarten,” and “Joe Kennedy started first grade,” and “Joe Kennedy started high school,” and “Joe Kennedy is 18.”
“I know,” the flower lady said, “Each time you ordered those flowers, you cried.” “Yes,” said Katie. The flower lady said, “I want you to know, each time, I cried, too.”
John Robert McFarland
I suppose Joe was the only kid at the hospital who had a grandpa as one of his regular companions. His mother was always with him, but his father had to work, to keep the insurance going, and his sister was too little, and Grandma had to take care of Brigid when Joe was in the hospital, so I was fairly often the one who accompanied Joe and Katie to the hospital, where I stayed nights, when I didn’t stay all night at the hospital, at the Ronald McDonald House. A couple of years after Joe’s time there, we were back in Iowa City at the wonderful Dance Marathon, where UIA students raise millions every year to help kids at the hospital. There were huge throngs everywhere, but as I was pushing through one of them, a woman I didn’t even recognize looked at me and said, “Hi, Joe’s grandpa.” She didn’t know my name, but she knew Joe, and she knew my role. That was one of my neatest moments ever.
1] You can read about this more in the second edition of my book, Now That I Have Cancer, I Am Whole: Reflections on Life and Healing for Cancer Patients and Those Who Love Them. It’s published by AndrewsMcMeel.