Pam sent amazing goodie boxes every 3 weeks or so throughout Joseph's entire
year of treatment! She went out and found special treats and toys
and stickers and good things to munch on, boxed them up with a cheerful,
newsy letter and hauled them off to the post office covered in funny notes
and more stickers! Showing great wisdom, she always made sure to
include goodies for both boys. When these delightful
boxes would appear on the front porch, someone would bring them to the
hospital or, if Joseph were home, I'd sneak them into the closet to slip
into a bag for the next hospital trip. Joseph, bored, hooked up to
an IV and feeling yucky, would light up and shine when I'd pull out an
"Aunt Pam and Uncle Dennis" box. Ripping it open, exploring the contents,
showing them off to the nurses, playing with new toys and nibbling new
treats would keep him distracted and cheerful for long stretches of time.
Aunt Pam with Nate and Joseph, New Year's 1998
came all the way from Kansas City to hold our hands and help interpret
medical gibberish in those first scary, other-worldly days? Who has
the guts to face surgical dressings and chest tubes without flinching?
Who took the time to make piles of video tapes of Cartoon Network to give
a little boy something to do during long, miserable days in a hospital
bed? Aunt Mary Alice, of course. She was our connection to
sanity through constant email and phone conversations. She provided
lots of love and hopefulness to all of us every single day. She and
Uncle Gary came up several times to help when Joseph was in the hospital,
to give Nate some special attention and to cheer everybody up. They
organized a carry-in Thanksgiving dinner at our house, so even though we
couldn't travel, we could see everybody and not have to do much meal preparation.
And they splurged and spent a week down in Florida with us for the big
"No More Chemo" celebration--yippee!
Aunt Mary Alice with Leah and Hannah, Summer 1997
Barbara" came up from Chicago to Madison when she could to help us juggle
home life during Joseph's hospitalizations, making it possible for David
to go to work and for both boys to get the attention and grown-up time
they needed. She brought gifts and cards and good cheer, and at the
end of Joseph's treatment she and Uncle Larry joined with Grandma and Grandpa
Woods to send the 4 of us to Florida to make wonderful memories at Disney
World for Joseph's amazing "No More Chemo" celebration! If you see
her, give her a hug.
Joseph was first diagnosed, I was sitting on the couch and I asked Mary
Alice in desperation, "what will l do with Nate when Joseph has to be in
the hospital all these times? Where will he go?" My dear friend
Mary Prior sitting across from me smiled calmly and said "He'll live with
us." And she really meant it. ("Wow, you're lucky to have a
friend like her!" Mary Alice said to me later. I already knew that.)
Nate spent a lot of nights and weekends out at the Prior house while Joseph
needed both Mama and Daddy to be in the hospital with him at night, or
when Daddy had to go to work. Their home was his home, where he could
laugh and play and forget, or be crabby and worried if he needed to be,
because he was in a safe and loving place. While I was in the
hospital rubbing Joseph's knees and back to help him fall asleep, Mary
was at home rubbing Nate's back and helping him fall asleep. I don't
know if it takes a whole village to raise a child, but it did take a very
good family from the village of Deerfield to help raise ours for a long
Mary and Chuck Prior, Ryan, Zach and Emma
Shelton is a wonderful mom, a fabulous teacher and a faithful friend.
We knew her well from Nate's happy year in her kindergarten class, so when
Dr. Sondel convinced us that Joseph should go to school, we asked if he
could be in Chris' class. She came to our house a few weeks before
school started to say hi to Joseph and learn what she'd need to know about
his treatments, his hickman line, how he'd be feeling in her class, any
special needs he'd have. She let him talk to the class about his
illness on the first day to get everyone comfortable right away, and she
let us circulate a letter to parents to inform them, too. She went
to great lengths to help Joseph integrate back into the class after his
many absences, and her enthusiasm and warmth made him feel so happy and
at home at school that he managed to be in her class a little over 50%
of the year, which was amazing. He couldn't wait to go back to school!
When he had to be in the hospital, she would take the time to pack up a
funny old suitcase of hers with lots of books and activities the other
kids would be doing while he was gone, and send it along with us.
Teachers do the most important work in our society, and Chris is the best
you'll ever meet.
Chris Shelton with Joseph