Seeing the swelling, just a year after the first time, brought a frown and then a shrug of denial. Swelling didn’t have to mean what she feared. And it was possible that it was attributed to the little knee banging into the coffee table. That had just happened yesterday. It was possible.
And yet, thinking back to the last week of complaints about knees and elbows “hurting on the inside,” she knew it was most likely another bout of arthritis in her daughter’s joints. And this time the doctor’s reluctance to officially diagnose the three-year-old with Juvenile Arthritis would become obligation. The shrug in the shoulders became a slump, and the frown softened into sad resignation.
She didn’t tell her husband about the swollen knee for a few days. There was no rush, and the boulder sitting on her chest was easier to bear alone – without having to comfort anyone else. Besides, the child’s complaints were sporadic, and she still ran and jumped and danced all day and half the night. No need to get the ball rolling again. No need to face the rhythm of appointments and hospital rooms and stickers and tiny Nicole Miller pajamas provided by the kind, but firm nurses.
They had been hoping that the first swollen joint would be the last. And for a while, it seemed like that was a possibility. Only one knee had been affected that first time, and in the eight months since the steroid injection, no other swelling or pain had appeared. Eighteen months, the doctor had said. After eighteen months we can exhale and give her a clean bill of health.
She hadn’t even made it halfway there. And now it was time to start again.
Sitting in the waiting room as her three-year-old daughter played with the toys, the mother snuck looks at the other children there. Not really children, they were probably ten, twelve. Awkward and cheeky. And one girl must be at least seventeen; she had driven herself to her appointment. Hot tears sprang to the mother’s eyes as she watched the probably-ten-year-old rise slowly, painfully from her chair after her name had been called. The pre-teen’s stiff limp across the hallway and into the examination room caught her unprepared, and the mother bit the inside of her lip to keep from dissolving into tears. The mother’s nostrils flared, but the tears stayed in.
Please let my daughter be strong, the mother prayed to no god in particular. Please let me be patient and show her how to bear this with grace. Please.