Gotta keep on keepin' on.......

Cancer again...that's 3 times in 2 years. This time it’s not breast cancer, but a new one called squamous cell carcinoma. New cancer, same old fighting spirit! My blog is still named for one of many songs that kept me going the first time around. Driving home from an upsetting appointment, I turned on the radio just as this line from Steve Miller Band's Jet Airliner was playing: "I've got to keep on keepin' on" I did just that. And I'll do it again.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

My little dinosaur

If you stopped by for a visit these days, you'd think we had a cat. No, not because of the smell (at least I hope not!) but because of the sounds. Frances has conquered the dinosaur sound! It goes like this: "kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk" and it sounds like a cat coughing up a hairball.

We're all allergic to cats, so believe me there's no cat here. Just Frances practicing for her next speech lesson. And while we're not a cat-friendly family, we do love that coughing-up-a-hairball sound! We've been waiting a long time to hear her say "kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk".

Frances is our 3-year-old (she'll be 4 in February). She started speech lessons over a month ago. If you think that seems young for speech, you might be surprised that we were thinking of having her speech assessed even earlier. At 2 years, she hardly spoke a word. She understood everything, but she would not talk. Well, that's not entirely true: She would say "No", but only to tell you that she wasn't going to say whatever it is you asked her to say! Then all of a sudden, Frances started talking. So we figured the problem was that she couldn't get a word in edgewise with her chatty older sisters around. Or, as my wise mother often said, she was just waiting until she could get it right.

Now 3 years old, Frances is still a little hard to understand. She has that typical little-kid lisp. But she also says "T" instead of "K" (Did I mention her favorite book is Hello Kitty?), and "W" instead of "L". (Our Leah couldn't get her Ls either and called herself Wee-ah until she was about 4.) And she has some wacky consonant blends that even we can’t figure out. For example, when Frances says "baybing thuit" we know she means "bathing suit". And when she asks for a "fweet", she wants a treat. But when she says "pwy", we don't know if she's saying "dry" or "try" or "cry" or something else entirely. We just ask her to repeat it, or describe it, and eventually we figure it out.

Normally, Frances is good-natured about her speech, but then, we’ve always been around to interpret for others. When Frances started preschool this fall, 2 mornings a week, for the first time she was surrounded by kids and adults who weren't used to her speech...and no one around to interpret.

The first week of preschool, Frances came home and stated matter-of-factly, "My teacher doesn't understand me." I asked her what she does when that happens and she said that she says it again. That was all. She didn’t mention it after that first week.

By mid-September, the preschool teacher was telling me that Frances frequently gets frustrated in class when she is not understood. John and I agreed that maybe it was time to get Frances’ speech assessed. We didn’t want this overshadowing her preschool experience and interfering with her learning.

Frances and I met with the speech teacher at Emma's and Leah's elementary school, who said that most of Frances' pronunciation problems are normal for her age, but that some blends are so random that she was a candidate for speech therapy. We could let her grow out of it, but if her frustration was interfering with her enjoying preschool, why not give speech a try?

That next week Frances started speech lessons. They are first concentrating on correcting her T-for-K and D-for-G sounds, and she is supposed to practice making what they call the "dinosaur sound" ("kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk", remember, the cat hacking up a hairball?)

Frances had a great first lesson ("great" meaning that she made the requested sound once and played with the toys for the rest of the session) and a terrible second one, where she literally clamped her mouth shut and refused to cooperate. The teacher gave up and brought her back to me early, and we discussed whether she was really ready for speech. We agreed to give her another week and see how things went.

That was about 10 days ago. Frances was upset and I was upset for her. Then, the day after the uncooperative speech session, the preschool teacher told me that Frances had had a major meltdown in class. Apparently her teacher told her she couldn't understand what she said, and Frances threw herself down on the floor sobbing, "No one understands my words!" When I heard this, I burst into tears, right in front of the teacher, the kids, and all of the parents dropping off their kids. My poor little girl! 3 years old and already experiencing frustration on an almost-daily basis.

Somehow, I knew, this was my fault. (It all comes back to the mother anyway, doesn’t it?) This last year has been so crazy, and I’ve been through so many physical changes (did I ever mention that for months she called me her "new Mommy"? It was after my lumpectomy in February, and my hair had started to grow back. She had just turned 3 and really thought her old mommy went into the hospital and the new mommy came out)....and we’ve had so many family members and friends in and out of the house to help out, I think poor Frances is confused. She probably can’t quite put her little finger on it, but she feels a little ignored, too. Having a sick mother takes a lot of attention away from the children and replaces it with pressure. It’s unfair.

All I could think about for days was my poor girl sobbing "No one understands my words." I’m tearing up thinking about it now. For the first time I was absolutely furious at myself for having cancer. I had been so proud that we had survived the ordeal as a normal family. Did I need to pay more attention to her? What was I doing or not doing?

So I spent some extra time with her...Mommy-Frances time...and we had a lovely afternoon at home after her ballet class (her sisters were still at their classes and baby brother was napping). Jesse woke up, and we played with him. He made a funny noise, and I commented that he sounded like a dinosaur. And would you believe, Frances responded with a "kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk"!!! Just like that. I don’t know why she did it, but I praised her and jumped up and down and said, "Frances, you made the dinosaur sound! I knew you could do it!"

And so did she. She was just waiting until she could get it right. Frances is a dinosaur, and I couldn't be more thrilled!


  • At 11/26/07, 12:47 PM, Blogger Sherry said…

    Frances sounds like one darling little pumpkin!! I'm sitting her smiling that she's making dinosaur sounds!!!

    Reminds me of Liam..he didn't talk properly for awhile and we just put it down to his being the baby and it was easier to point to things. Then he developed a hernia at age 3..took him to the doctor and lo and behold the child's "problem" is a tongue tie!!! So while the hernia was being repaired the doctor also did a snip job under the tongue and voila.."it speaks"!!! :) I'm assuming they have checked under Frances' tongue?!?!?!?! Can she stick her tongue out all the way? That should have been my first clue, and yes, I thought I was a "bad" mom for not noticing it!!

    As for this being your fault..nah Katie...the cancer is the culprit for some hold up in development maybe and some concerns. If you're really worried, you're doing the right thing by one-on-one time and if you are really thinking that's not helping, some play therapy might do her a world of good..get all that confusion and frustration out of her system.

    You are an outstanding mom because you are recognizing areas of concern and working on them. And any little one who says "no one understands my words" just grabs your heart because bless her little spirit, she's not taking this lying down!! Go get 'em Frances!!!

  • At 11/26/07, 2:30 PM, Blogger bella said…

    This made me cry. for your daughter and what it must feel like to have words and yet not be heard. and for you, and how much we love our kids and want to protect them and how much second guessing goes on.
    It is hard to accept that things that happen in our lives do affect our children. And that it is just part of life. When I had surgery (hysterectomy) due to ovarian cancer and was in bed recovering and then couldn't even pick up by then two year old son, it hurt so much. I saw him act out and it made me cry. And yet, what was the alternative?
    All this to say, your courage is heartening to me, and your honesty refreshing.
    I'm so happy to have discovered your blog.

  • At 11/26/07, 9:30 PM, Blogger Crooked Eyebrow said…

    What a wonderful sound that "KKKK" sound. Such a touching story. As always...

    I'm so glad you stop by and visit, so I found you!

  • At 11/28/07, 10:01 PM, Blogger lahdeedah said…

    Hey Katie! I have to dash out to get a Christmas tree and Chinese food, but I had to write a few words...

    This is so tender and touching. That little girl is so fortunate to have a mom who loves her with as much passion and hope as you do.

    My Katie, when she was two, called a swimsuit a "hoo hoo." When she actually started calling it a swimsuit, I was crushed. I told her it wasn't really called a swimsuit; it actually was a hoo-hoo--that she had it right--and to please use the proper term :)

    And cancer didn't make you a bad mom. No more than cancer made me a bad mom. There were days when I was too tired to make sure the Hollister jeans were clean or the milk hadn't expired. I thought about feeling bad, and then I thought about just letting it go. I tend to be a perfectionist, so this was a good thing for me :)

    I hope you're feeling good. And I hope you're feeling good about your parenting, because you're the real deal.



  • At 1/2/08, 11:16 PM, Blogger Marsha said…

    Katie, I totally relate to this. I just finished treatment for Lymphoma and have a 2 1/2 year-old. It is heartbreaking to think of them having to bear consequences to our cancer no matter that we never asked for it. Glad Frances is getting it. Glad I found you, love your blog.

    Marsha of


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