Christmas in a hospital sounds like a pretty terrible scenario for anyone, which is exactly why it's been wonderful for us.
I arrived this week for an 11-day stay at the Alberta Children's Hospital thanks to a vacation week planned long before Dominic had leukemia. Night one was my birthday, one I'll never forget because I got to play bingo with my wife and son and attend my first pizza night since September.
Pizza comes every Wednesday night to the oncology ward, delivered by a rotating group of former patients' families who want to give back. On this night it was a survivor and her mom.
The survivor is now a nurse at the nearby Tom Baker Cancer Centre. She's now treating the disease that put her in the hospital in the first place. Her experiences undoubtedly motivated her to pursue a career in giving back.
In that same way, folks are motivated this time of year to help out families like ours feel a bit better at what is supposed to be a happy time.
There has been an influx of donations which is truly touching. A few friends have decided to go ahead and sign up to be part of the bone marrow registry, which is an amazing gesture that could save someone's life.
Here at the hospital we had a party with Santa and Mrs. Claus, painting, decorating gingerbread houses and listening to fiddlers sing Christmas carols. But I couldn't help but notice as we walked in that of the 15-or-so undecorated houses, only two got to be decorated in the common playroom where the party took place.
That's because most of the other kids are either on isolation or too sick or weak to actually go to the playroom. Santa still visited each of them privately, but it's not the kind of scene you envision when you think of a Christmas party.
Then we realized that when Dominic gets his bone marrow transplant in February, he'll be just like the others again. As much as chemotherapy resets your blood cells and immune system, the transplant takes it to another level. He won't be able to stroll the hallways anymore and the playroom will be off-limits because his immune system will be even more fragile.
In other words, we'd better enjoy what we have now.
Dom's become a bit of a celebrity here, enjoying the attention he gets. The other day an older patient who has eight siblings back home asked if there were any babies in the ward she could meet. She missed her family.
"Well," said the nurse, "have we got a baby for you."
Dom waved goodbye to her on command, gave high-fives and giggled. Yup, another satisfied customer.
He's eating like a champ, putting on weight again, and his blood counts are on target for possibly being out the week after Christmas. We'll likely get out for a day pass on the 25th to see both families, which we are quite aware is a blessing on its own given that many others here are too far away to have that opportunity.
The journey continues.