Steven and Sean on the Polar Bear Cam
Steven and Sean on the Polar Bear Cam

Friday, July 30, 2004

Our Indian Guide Friends

There are many reasons there haven't been any updates since May, two of the reasons being that we've been having major computer woes, but hopefully we're back online for the time being at least. We'd intended to post this in June, so this is a start at trying to get everyone caught up.

Doug signed up for Indian Guides for the 2002/2003 school year with both Steven and Sean. Their main activity is a once-a-month camping expedition somewhere in the wilds of Southern California.

They had a great time, and Doug was appointed chief for the previous 2003/2004 school year, the last year that Steven would qualify for the program.

Steven's brain tumor diagnosis came before the first campout, four days after he began third grade. Despite the fact that he had brain surgery, he recovered so quickly that he was able to attend the first campout. The next weekend he flew to Memphis to start radiation.

Steven's favorite campout of the year is a trip to Catalina Island, the Catalina trip is in October. This year, the Catalina trip came during Steven's radiation.

That Friday, the day that Doug, Sean, and the Indian Guides were on the boat to Catalina, was the day that all of Steven's hair fell out. We knew it would fall out, but we didn't realize that all of his thick curly golden hair would fall out over the course of 24 hours.

Early Friday evening, after our last-minute visit to Maxine, the kindly hair stylist who cut Steven's hair for free, my cell phone rang.

It was Doug. He and Sean were on the boat to Catalina and he wanted to talk to Steven before he went out of cell phone range.

Steven chatted away with him, then asked what all the background noise was. Doug said they were on the Catalina boat.

Steven immediately burst into sobs and set the phone down. The boat with Doug on it passed out of cell phone range and we were cut off. I tried to placate Steven with miniature golf and a movie.

The stark reality of the fact that he was going to miss his favorite campout of the year, in the last year that he was eligible to attend, that his dad and brother were going without him, became symbolic of everything that cancer was taking away from him.

Like with everything, Steven eventually calmed down, accepted the reality, and moved on, although during that weekend he would suddenly remember something like that his dad had promised to take him to see the buffalo on Catalina and the tears would begin again.

We returned in November, in time for him to go to Big Bear with the Indian Guides. In December, we all left and Doug offically relinquished his chief duties, and we began Steven's chemotherapy regimen.

Although we had to put the Indian Guides aside for a while, they didn't put us aside. During our absence, they found ways to include us in their monthly activities.

They sent us a huge oilcloth banner saying they missed us and got their nation members all to sign it. They sent us a photo of the entire nation with the banner.

From another campout, they sent us a box full of paper airplanes with encouraging messages on them written by members of the tribe.

From the Anza-Borrego desert campout (Steven's favorite), they sent us a huge package, containing a treasure chest chock full of gifts. A Native American from their camp made us a beautiful dream catcher.

Also they sent videos, notes, hand-drawn maps of the campsites, and goofy anecdotes about their goings-on. In a very special way they managed to make us part of their ativities, and managed to be part of our lives away from home.

The weekend of May 22 was the final Indian Guide campout, this being the only one where the wives and other non-Indian-Guide siblings are invited to attend. We were worried that Steven's last minute dogbite might prevent him from going or from being able to participate in all their activities, but it all worked out so he could go.

We went, and it was wonderful to be there. Steven was "bounced out", meaning that he was dunked in a water tank by Doug and he in turn got to dunk Doug.

Doug and his replacement chief both participated in passing the torch to next year's chief, and got a cream pie in the face delivered by Steven and Sean.

We are intending to smuggle Steven onto the boat to Catalina for next year's Indian Guide campout, one way or another he'll be making that trip he missed to Catalina, with any luck and some prayer, maybe he'll even have some hair by then.

-- Kathleen

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