Keeping in mind that I was pregnant...I hated the Ronald McDonald House from May to August of 2000. The first time I walked into our room (Anderson was still in the hospital) I got in the shower, fell against the wall and cried for over an hour. Our room consisted of a bathroom, two double beds, a closet, and if you were lucky, a TV.
At that time everyone staying in Seattle's RMH had a cancer patient being treated at Children's Hospital. So besides sharing a family room, kitchen and eating area everyone expected you to share your child's diagnosis and treatment information...I didn't want to. I still remember when one woman came up to me and asked what Anderson had been diagnosed with. When I told her Leukemia she asked which kind. After telling her it was A.L.L she replied, "Oh wheeew, the good kind." I was so angry I couldn't speak. The GOOD kind. I wanted to punch her in the face. Please tell me on this great green earth what is possibly GOOD about my son having Leukemia! Later I did come to realize that she was right, Anderson did have the good kind of Leukemia. But no mother wants to hear those words only days after her world has been ripped out from under her. OK...so the RMH. We were sleeping in a hotel size room. We pushed the beds together to make one big King size bed. If you look at the above photo you will see a cupboard circled in red. That, my friends, was our kitchen space...one small cupboard to store food for a family of four. Our fridge space was one metal basket about the size of the fruit drawer in your refrigerator. Our freezer basket was even smaller. If you did cook a meal in the kitchen you were then forced to eat in the common area...never a private family meal...ever.
Our first idea for a solution was to buy a small fridge and put it into the room...but then there were the RMH rules. Absolutely NO food in the rooms...ever. While I was pregnant we ate out twice a day, seven days a week. I still remember when one of our rooms was on the first floor we would smuggle in pizzas through the window.
Some other house rules were:
~No bare feet outside of the bedrooms
~If you are coughing or sick you must wear a face mask
~If you get to go home for a day or two you must report back into the RMH by 10:00PM on the final day. (We always got into trouble for breaking this one.
~No "stay over" guests. (We always broke this rule too)
~Do your assigned chore every day and sign it off on the paper
~Don't leave your laundry in the dryer for more than 15 minutes after it is completed
It was very hard to be an adult and suddenly have to report to other adults.
But then I had Sydney and I returned to the RMH with less hormones and a lot better attitude. The lady who I wanted to punch in the face became a dear friend and another lady, Mickey, had this to say shortly after we returned, "Wow Amy, we didn't really like you over the summer, but you have totally changed!" She was right. We started hanging out around the House more often and we became attached to those we lived with.
We all read a ton! (See our Christmas Stockings hanging on the wall) John swore our family would never have video games, but when your child's counts are low you are stuck inside and can't go anywhere. (Basically that means that Anderson's blood Counts were extremely low due to his chemotherapy and his immunity was non existent.) Our family played A LOT of video games. John and I would stay up all hours of the night playing Mario kart and Mario Tennis on the Nintendo 64.Since Anderson was missing Preschool we had him and Cayden do "book work" every day.
Carl is the name of a dog in several books by Alexandra Day. In each book the dog babysits a little girl and they have all kinds of adventures together. My boys loved those books. The lady who was with the dog looked up at me and said very matter-of-factly, "This is Carl." She was Alexandra Day! Of course I immediately ran up to our room to get all of our Carl books and she signed them all. We saw Carl a lot while we were at the RMH. He was one of the kindest dogs I had ever met.
While we were there they asked my boys to participate in a photo shoot with Ronald. They were getting shots that they could use to promote Ronald McDonald House Charities. Keep in mind that this all took place from May 2000 until April 2001. On Thursday March 11, 2004 John was in Tacoma for the State Basketball tournament. Someone had left their Seattle Times on the bench in front of him so John snatched it up. When John opened it to the sports section this is what he saw... A HUGE 1/2 page add for the RMH with Cayden as their poster boy! The rest of that year I had several people come back from Mariners games and tell me that they saw Cayden's picture plastered on the big screen at the game.
That year was the worst and best year of my life. It was amazing how complete strangers became united through the sicknesses of their children. We had many heartaches that year. A teenage boy from Alaska was being sent home. There was nothing more that could be done for him so he was going home to die. He didn't want to go home. All his friends were at the RMH. Everyone in Seattle knew what he was going through, they were just like him. I still remember the day John took the RMH van and that young man to his last Seattle Mariners game. He died a month later in Alaska.
Many other children that we came to know and love lost their fight that year. As a mother I have often wondered why my child made it through. I see things differently now. I never pass up the opportunity to drop some change in those clear RMH Charity boxes. Each night spent at the RMH was $12. You were sent a bill at the end of your stay that simply stated that if you had the funds great...if not, no worries. I don't fret about some of the little things in life like I used to. I try to let my kids live. If they aren't hurting anything or anyone...it's probably OK.
They have since remodeled the RMH and it is no longer only for Cancer Patients. This makes me a little sad to think my home away from home has changed. I truly came to love my stay there and I will forever be in debt to the staff who worked there and the families who lived there.