I’ll start off saying this is going to be a difficult one to make it through. This was hard to write, so I’m sure it will be hard to read. But I need to get it off my chest tonight.
Amanda spends a lot of her time online at a site called Deviant Art, where she’s made friends with other kids her age, posting art (some of my favorites of hers I’ve included in this posting) and doing various role-play stories. We’ve discreetly monitored her on there for a while, making sure she was being safe and also watching as she tried on different aspects of her personality in the ongoing stories they would craft, getting some insights into how she perceives the world around her. Sometimes, her language gets a little stronger than I’d like (we don’t curse around the kids, but ho-boy, do they ever figure it out…), but she’s speaking appropriately to her friends in their language so it’s ok. She’s been working through her “demons” with her friends, mainly her tendency to meltdown and lash out at people without thinking about the consequences. Thankfully her friends seem to understand and, while difficult to deal with, they don’t seem to hold her episodes against her, which is nice. She understands her problems, and seems to be trying to get better with her friends’ help.
Tonight, however, I read a journal entry that spoke more specifically about what she’s gone through in the last 7 years than anything I’ve ever been able to get from her. It was enlightening, and heartbreaking.
I was checking her profile page like we do every week or so, looking at the art she puts up, reading some of the public comments and stories between her and her friends. Tonight, there was a journal entry called, “Story Time”, which is something I’ve seen some of her friends post when they describe a situation going on in their life in a 3rd person way and get help from others. Her story starts with a young girl with an optimistic but strange personality, ready to live life and rise to the challenges faced. Then, when she was 9, her mom had cancer and was “shipped off to the nearest hospital” (side note, Amanda was actually 7 when Teri was first diagnosed, so her timeline is a little skewed…but that’s ok, it’s honestly hard to remember sometimes this has been going on as long as it has been). She talks about her friends at school trying to help, but how hard it was for her to come home and mom wasn’t there. Mom got better, and life started to get back to normal, but then she moved and had to go to a new school where she was bullied and teased. Then mom’s cancer came back, and the girl was traumatized and angry knowing the doctors didn’t get rid of all of it. This goes on a bit, more troubles at school with friends, the cancer going dormant again but coming back 3 years later. She talks about finally discovering friends online, and how they changed her life and helped.
She goes on about a boy she met online who helped her soothe her fears, but then cheated on her, and then other troubles when that boy started dating her “sister”, a girl she was very close to (I use the term “dating” loosely, as they are all in different states so never have physical contact). She talks more about how she lashes out, unleashing her inner demons, and ends with a question, asking if she will ever be soothed or continue “her demonic rampages and reaping of souls” (she can be rather dramatic with her imagery).
We’ve dealt with Amanda’s demons for years. 2 years ago she would lash out violently at Teri and me with little provocation. There were a lot of scary times then, but we have been able to work through things and she seems to be on a better track now. She does slip from time to time, and still has self-harm tendencies where she’ll come home from school stressed out and literally looking like she was in a fight with a jaguar – arms, legs, and face scratched and bleeding from her behavior.
But this is the first time I’ve read anything about how she’s perceived and dealt with our ongoing battle with cancer. She won’t talk about it with me, though she’s talked with Teri a little about it over the years. And it breaks my heart to see her describe how much this fight has hurt her as well.
Cancer effects us all. Teri the most, as she’s the one fighting like hell and going through the physical sickness. It effects me as it’s hard to watch it progress, but stay strong for her and the rest of the family. I know it’s been hard on the kids, the prospect of losing their mom but not knowing when that day will come, if ever, but reading that gave me a window to Amanda that I hadn’t seen before. And I just want to hold her like I did when she was an infant so nothing in this world can ever hurt her.