Although I am frankly intimidated by the high bar Erin and Marshall have set for Mac’s blog, I asked them to pass over the keyboard. For those of you I have not met, I am Mac’s aunt/Marshall’s sister, Polly.

Since the day Mac was born last September, at exactly 10 lbs, there was something sweet and wise about him.  While he never requires that he be the center of attention, he always is. He has a way of pulling everyone towards him. He is content and observant, and bashfully playful. He has a unique calming effect, and everybody wants to be the one holding Mac and playing with him – my mom and I have gotten into more than one argument over this (we’ve dubbed it “baby hogging”). Two and a half months after being diagnosed, Mac is still as sweet, wise, and captivating as can be. And yet, he has changed. He has a more determined look in his eye. He is more vocal about what he needs. And he is stubborn (not to be confused with whiny), expressing to us how he feels and how we should help him. Mac is so close to walking (he is taking steps!), but he is calm and clear that he just isn’t ready yet, and that it is OK. There is something in his sweet sparkly brown eyes that tells you to trust him, that at one-year-old, he knows what he is doing.

When I get anxious about his diagnosis, I don’t find myself necessarily calling friends or family, but instead heading over to their house to play with Mac and JB. At a collective age of five, those extraordinary boys seem to have a handle on the situation better than the many adults hovering over them (probably mostly me). For being nearly four, JB amazes me at his compassion and ability to play with Mac while also being careful and aware that his baby brother has cancer (he is the first one to hand you hand sanitizer as you walk into the house). He roughhouses just enough to remind us all that Mac is his toddler baby brother and that Mac, like all babies, should play, play, play. At the same time, JB is careful, protective over, and patient with Mac.

JB also seems to be initiating Mac into “toddlerhood”. To the dismay of many of the adults in our family, JB, Reese (their cousin), and I have grown to love the “bar game” at my mom and David’s house (known to their grandkids as “Mar” and “Pa”). This involves us sticking our feet between the banister bars on the second floor and screaming “MAAAARRR” at the top of our lungs. Mar quickly comes to the entryway, “yells” at us, and comes running up the stairs to chase and tickle us. Mar should be in the running for grandmother of the year – I think her record is doing this 15 times in a row.  This year at Thanksgiving, Mac really got into the game…and there  is nothing better than seeing his bald little head crawling as fast as you can imagine, feet literally tumbling over his head, and then bursting into giggles when his grandmother eventually catches and tickles him. As soon as one round of the game finishes, he quickly uses sign language for “more” and yells “mo, mo!” When Mar finally tires, Pa steps in and brings the mop, popping it up to tickle their feet between the bars. Again, along with Brenda and Bruce, grandparents of the year!

So much of this narrative has been about Mac and JB, but I worry about Marshall and Erin. I’ve always looked up to them both individually and as a couple, and no parent should have to endure what they are going through. Early Tuesday morning (12/9/14), I went to Children’s Hospital with Erin in preparation for Mac’s 10 week scans. Erin has figured out that the nurses on the oncology floor have the most experience accessing ports, and so arranged for us to get there early so they could access Mac’s port instead of having the radiology team do it. We then went down to radiology to wait for Mac’s scans. Although tired, hungry, and thirsty, as he isn’t allowed food or drink before anesthesia, Mac charmed each of the nurses and doctors who came into his room – showing just enough interest in them to have them hooked. Whether peeking out the hospital room door waving or blowing kisses as they left the room, Mac was in control of the room. When the time finally came, Erin carried Mac into the MRI room, holding him as they injected a Whiteout looking substance into his port. Within 10 seconds, he eyes closed and limbs went limp. Erin repeated “I love you” ensuring those were the words Mac fell asleep to. She then kissed his sweet forehead and laid him in the gigantuous machine so that he could get his scans, which would tell us if the chemo is working (IT IS!!) and if his cancer has spread (IT HAS NOT!).

Fast-forward 24 hours and Marshall is making a breakfast for kings, in this case, Mac and JB. Rumor has it that Mac ate three whole eggs plus the rest of the breakfast spread set before him. A day of scans can’t get our boy down!  Although JB may have been a bit more excited to have his Dad take him out for a bagel or donuts (one of their favorite activities together), he enjoyed having his baby brother home from the hospital for a family breakfast.

It’s funny how things work out. Mac was diagnosed exactly one month after Brandon and I celebrated our wedding with our families in Michigan. We could never really explain, even to ourselves, why we choose to have a short engagement or why we opted for a small, primarily family celebration. It seems there was something larger than our rushed decision making at play. Not only are Marshall and Erin wonderful parents, friends, and lawyers, they are also wonderful siblings. I don’t think I ever really thanked them for all they did for Brandon and me as we tied the knot. From taste testing every menu in Holland, Michigan, providing us with a play-by-play in Denver, to giving us the most perfect wedding gift (Rachel, the new puppy love of our lives!), to Erin doing my hair in between breastfeeding and diaper changing, they were amazing. We were able to spend carefree time together in Michigan, a place that we love and means so much to each of us. We have many great pictures of Mac playing and snuggling with his family, full head of hair, gearing up for the fight of his life . . . and, boy, can he fight! It seems like Labor Day Weekend was about more than Brandon and I getting married – it was about a time when we could all spend a happy long-weekend together without the weight of cancer on our shoulders. My dad, Mac’s grandfather, was bald, as is my now husband. JB and I like to say that we really have a thing for the balds. They are something special and Mac has some amazing guys wearing his uniform and on his team….

xox, Auntie Polly