“Mom? Mom? Hey, stop it. Mom’s crying! Mom, are you ok?”

The theme started in October, soon after my Twortyth birthday.

My incredible friends and family were around me. Work was good. I was feeling healthy. I even booked this awesome role on a Netflix show. I know, right?!

I was UNSTOPPABLE.

I had a great time shooting on Day 1 of my 2 day gig, and still riding the high of the booking went home to a responsible night of early bed.

At 3:30 AM, I was woken by a little monkey who had the stomach flu. By 3:30 PM the next afternoon, Kid Vader was totally fine – but my stomach had started sloshing around and percolating at odd intervals. By 7 PM I was a violent exhibition of dual exit pyrotechnics. I couldn’t stand up, or see straight. I groaned inwardly. Of course this is happening, because I booked a gig. (And it’s a well known fact among actors and all creatives that as soon as the universe gives you an opportunity to flex your talent, life will throw you a curve ball of equal proportions.)

Well if my 3 year old got through it in 12 hours, I’m sure I will too, I thought. I could totally recover in time to make it to set the next day, right? Maybe I could just lie down between takes or make sure there was ginger-ale and chamomile tea to drink.

Except that 12 hours came and went, as did another 12 – I still couldn’t hold down water. My fever wouldn’t break. I don’t remember very much except perpetually begging Cap to please let the 1st AD know what was happening because I didn’t want to hold up production. Cap called the ambulance just before 9pm.  It had been going on for 27 hours and I was so weak I couldn’t sit up.

After a few bags of saline, a whack-load of pain killers and antinauseants, some ultrasounds and xrays – and another 12 or so hours of observation, I was allowed to go home to bed-rest. What took my 3 year old 14 hours to fully recoup from, took me 11 days. The virus hit my gall, triggered my Crohn’s, and interrupted most of my meds. Balls.

I lost my acting gig.

“Poor Mommy. I’m really sorry you got fired.”

“I didn’t get ‘fired’ exactly. I just got sick and they had to replace me. It’s ok. These things happen.” I flashed Vee my very best ‘don’t-let-anything-stop-you’ smile.

“Oh. Except now you won’t be on the show.”

“Nope.”

“So you got fired.”

“NO. NOT FIRED.” And then I collapsed in a snotty, sobbing mess on my then 7 year-old’s lap.

I cried bitterly. I stomped around and fought to ‘get back on track’ even harder.

And I decided that things happened for a reason (as we do to mollify ourselves when absolutely senseless and stupid things happen to us), and speculated that this must have cleared the way for some kind of awesome. And boy, I was ready for said Awesome.

I had gone through whatever karmic puzzle the universe wanted to put me through; I’d said the magic words or whatever, and things were going to rock now.

Two days later at 3:00 AM, I sat up bolt straight after hearing a strange whimper, and ran down the hall to my son’s room. He was burning up.

His temperature skyrocketed to 104 and hovered there, and  we went from disgruntled and delirious to terrified and on hospital watch. His throat started swelling up and his breathing became rapid and shallow. What was this? An allergic reaction? I looked at his throat and was shocked to see massive red tonsils with telltale white pustules on them.

According to urgent care, it was a simple virus and would resolve on its own. So, the next week or so was all liquids and soups and very little sleep.

We had a nice Halloween interlude, with Vee and both her dads going out to seize the neighbourhood loot, and newly recovered Kid Vader and I hanging out at home. Things were good. Cap and I sifted through candies in the living room, the kids giggled, and for one night, everything seemed ok again. I allowed myself to exhale.

This was it. This was the turning point. I had gone through whatever karmic puzzle the universe wanted to put me through; I’d said the magic words or whatever, and things were going to rock now. I could feel it. I was even going to be a guest at the Ekran film festival in Toronto which was screening Sister Elisabeth, the biopic that I was the lead in. My director George Rethy and I were doing a Q&A and everything. Things were back on track. Yes.

On the big day, Vee was grumbling about her stomach, and insisted that she wanted to stay home.

“But Mooooooooooooooooom I don’t feel goooooooood!”

“Yes you do. You’re fine.”

“But Mom I-”

“YOU’RE FINE!”

Mama’s ready. Bring on the awesome!

That evening, I got the awesome all over me in spades. Vee had the stomach flu. Seven days later that was followed by a spiking fever and intense headache and sore throat – exactly like her brother a couple weeks before. Except hers then manifested as a rash on her chest and trunk. And suddenly an idea broke through the haze that another week of sleeplessness and around the clock childcare had imparted.

“Mom? What is it? Why are you making that face?”

Lost in my own world of Holmesian deduction, I quickly went into Kid Vader’s room and whipped his pants down. And there it was. The same rash. It was like seeing the freaking broken fragment of porcelain flash ‘Kobayashi’ at the end of Usual Suspects.

I nodded slowly as my brain made connections and tried to figure out incubation times and symptoms.

“Honey?…What is it?” Asked Cap.

“I have no idea. But it’s definitely….something.” I took a deep breath, and decided that things happened for a reason (as we do to mollify ourselves when absolutely senseless and stupid things happen to us), and speculated that this must have cleared the way for some kind of awesome. And boy, I was ready for said Awesome.

 

The pain in my joints crept in and my flare started to cement itself. I made list upon list and planned to get back in control.

 

Politicians and publicists could really learn a lot from doctors and the way they smile. There’s true caring and concern communicated, but even when bad news is being delivered there’s still a sense of reassurance in the eyes. It says that everything is going to be ok, and somehow manages to strengthen the listener’s resolve to soldier on. My doctor is amazing. She could tell me I had a camel growing out of my neck and I would somehow feel relieved.

“So, Mono is very different in kids than it is in adults…”

“Mono? Like Mono, Mono? Like Mono this whole time? So wait, it’s not, like, a bunch of flus and some weird Roseola?”

“No.”

“So… it’s Mono.”

Again that smile.

“Young children can’t be tested the same way as teens and adults, but the symptoms and the time frame, and the fact that it’s been going longer than 3 weeks as well as the rash…” At this point I think I may have had a stroke.  I could see her lips moving but somehow the buzz of the flourescents overhead drowned everything out. I glanced at Vee pointing with both hands at the bowl of sugarless lollipops on the desk, none too subtlely asking me if she could have one. I looked at the speckles on the linoleum tiles with fascination. I briefly thought about my dog’s bladder, and did the kind of ‘can he hold it’ math that only dog owners know. I thought about zapping everything better, and how nice it would be to be wearing big fluffy socks or eating chocolate. Then I tuned back in.

“…sounds like they are passing things back and forth… looks like things can resolve with rest and they’ll gradually get back to full energy…if the fever and rash keep recurring or if anything new develops call me so we can see if they need any other help…”

I pulled the kids from school and daycare and we spent the next 2 weeks driving each other completely insane. They seemed to be experiencing different symptoms at different times, and that together with their different interests and clashing screen-time preferences, almost made me run out of the house screaming at various intervals. Nothing was in synch. Nothing. You know those moments that just line up and make you feel like everything is super-connected and that you’re part of some fantastic, serendipitous celestial engine, or a Gym Kata routine? Well, this was absolutely not that.

Our days seemed riddled with relapse. And every step I took ahead on my own path, led me right back to full domestic immersion with the sickies, watching creative opportunities stall out or fall through, and office work pile up like Tetris bricks. My anxiety was at an all time high. I couldn’t seem to pace my breathing and sleep evaded me well beyond the kids feeling better, My brain-fog started to consume me again, shortening my memory span and robbing me of words and phrases and linear thinking. My Crohn’s wasn’t going away. My fever was back. The pain in my joints crept in and my flare started to cement itself. I made list upon list and planned to get back in control.

I wept until I couldn’t weep anymore.

And I decided that things happened for a reason (as we do to mollify ourselves when absolutely senseless and stupid things happen to us), and speculated that this must have cleared the way for some kind of awesome. And boy, I was ready for said Awesome.

 

 

Then, one pre-dawn early morning, a small disgruntled dinosaur crawled into bed with me.

“I love you, Mama.”

“I love you, Baby T-Rex.”

His tiny hands wrapped around my head and squeezed. I inhaled deeply.

Over the last few months I kept saying “I’m done. I don’t have anything left to give.” And yet, somehow I’d keep going.

I kept saying, “I don’t have a life. I don’t even know who I am anymore.” And yet, whenever my family called for me, I’d jump to respond.

I kept saying, “I can’t roll with it anymore.” But whatever my original intentions, whatever I would plan and strive for, and whether I was happy or not, I woke up to greet the day ahead.

I’d say, “Why is this happening?” and strain for the gratification that some kind of victory would bring. Some elusive connection, reason, or ‘win’ that would permit me to reset my stoicism and feel the Awesome that surely by now I was entitled to, right?

But in that strange not-quite-light of 5am; with one tiny nose pressed up against my forehead and another gangly snuggler climbing in on my other side, I finally got it.

“Mama?”

“Can I have some milk?”

“Move over.”

“No YOU move over.”

“Stop taking my cover.”

“I want to watch something.”

“You always want to watch that.”

“Give me the clicky.”

“WARM MILK.”

“Daddy GET UP.”

“Why is the dog barking?”

“What am I having for lunch today?”

“NO not that one. The one with the RED dino.”

“We always watch that one. And it’s orange.”

“It’s red.”

“You don’t even know your colours.”

“Waka’s not listening.”

“I didn’t start this, YOU did.”

“I’m starving. DAD. Wake up. Are there waffles?”

“OUCH. MAMA WAKA OUCH ME.”

“Mom? Mom? Hey, stop it. Mom’s crying! Mom, are you ok?”

“Mama?”

 

Everything was…alright. Mono or no mono. Flare or no flare. Missed work, missed school, missed opportunities, missed payments, dropped balls, personal crises, meltdowns and all. Everything was still alright.

The clock kept moving. The moments were there.

I was there.

And that’s the only Awesome I need.

 


Our hero image was drawn by our very own VeeVee, who at the time was 7 years old. Please note the awesome shark swimming up the street on this ‘very bad day’. Perfection.