Hank: I am so excited we are finally leaving.
Me: (sigh, looking out the window) A day late, but we are on our way.
Hank: I was sad we had to stay home yesterday, but I am so excited now.
Me: Me, too.
Pai: You understand why we had to stay, don’t you?
Hank: Mommy was sick in the hospital again.
Me: (getting weepy, deep breath) Well, seeing as we have a two hour drive ahead of us there are some things we should talk about as a family.
Pai: (reaching over to hold my hand)
Me: You know how I have been ill for some weeks?
Hank: Yes, you have been having pain again. Is it your back?
Me: At first. To be honest I have been sick for many years with pain. Doctors could never give me an explanation why, but a long time ago I decided I would rather be an extremely happy person that lives with pain than a miserable person who suffers.
Hank: I know this.
Me: True, but my pain has grown worse. Remember, when you and I were on vacation in America when I had to go to the Hospital because my arm stopped working?
Hank: Yes, and I stayed with Josita and Mounir painted you a picture frame.
Me: Which I treasure, well that has been happening more and more and also my hands began to stop working and I couldn’t hold my canetas (pens) properly anymore to draw and my fingers would swell and burn after typing even the shortest stories and my feet and knees would swell and it hurt to stand and walk. And after working in the garden I would be sore without getting better. I couldn’t lift my arms to wash or tie back my hair, so I had to go to the doctor.
Hank: Mommy, I noticed.
Me: (crying) I’m sure you did, buddy, you’re a part of my team.
Hank: And when you hurt I hurt, right?
Pai: So this week your mãe (mom) went to the clinic and had many analysis done on her blood and on Friday, before we went to pick you up early to leave on our camping weekend we took the results to the doctor at the centro de saúde (health center) and he took one look at the exams and sent your mother strait to the hospital.
Hank: And that is why we couldn’t leave yesterday.
Pai: Yes, because Henrique your mother is very sick.
Me: I had to spend the day at the hospital running more tests and they now know what is wrong. It is not good news. (pause) I will never get better. I have a disease called Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Pai: In Portuguese it is called Artrite Reumatóide.
Hank: Artrite Reumatóide?
Me: My body is confused and has decided to attack all of my joints, o meu articulações, causing me great pain and the swelling that you have noticed, BUT what you need to understand is that I am very strong and now that we know what is making me sick I will make some life style changes and take some medications and I will be just fine. I will have attacks where I need to rest, just like if I caught a cold or a flu, and then I will be better. I can eat specific foods and take vitamins and exercise and all of these things will help me live my best life. I need to change the way I live now with pain and take better care of myself.
Pai: And I am going to make the same changes, because I love your mãe (mom) and I am a part of her team. Would you like to make these changes too?
Hank: You mean exercise? I love to exercise. I can do that with you, mommy and I like healthy foods. You don’t have to worry. We are your team. I will help you when you are hurting. You just need to tell me.
Pai: You mama is learning to ask for help and tell us the truth about how she is feeling and we will all work together.
Me: Thanks guys. (deep breath) I am sorry I haven’t been as honest with you as I should have been. I was scared. I didn’t want to scare you, too. I didn’t want to admit to myself that I needed help or that I was sick. I know now I wasn’t fooling anyone only myself. I feel better now that I know what is wrong. I always thought I was unlucky, that I had done something wrong to make myself ill, but now I know that this is not my fault. I feel sad that I am sick, but I know I am strong enough to be as well as possible.
Hank: And we can help you.
Pai: We will help you.
Hank: It’s going to be okay.
Me: It already is. (pause, tears) Thank you for being my best boy, Hank. Thank you, Alfredo (Pai), for being my person.
Pai: I love you.
Hank: I love you, my mama.
Me: (crying) Já chega (that’s enough)! (wiping my eyes) Let’s go camping.
Hank: It’s not really camping, because we are staying in a cabin. REAL camping is a tent, but you need a bed because you are ill. We will go real camping someday.
Pai:: This is what Americans call, “glamping,” glamorous camping.