A Mother’s Heart
by: Jennifer Cobb
Ju- The Younger Years: A Mother’s Perspective On March 17th, 2005, Julia Tamara Cobb made her grand entrance to this world on St. Patrick’s Day, three weeks before her scheduled arrival. St. Patrick’s Day took on a new meaning for us. We would be able to celebrate her birthday in a special way each year- green everything!!!
Dr. Virelles delivered our small 6lb.13oz. angel, and I soon learned dynamite really does come in small packages! Immediately I called her “party girl” because her eyes were shining, big and blue, and seemed to just scream “FUN”! She was very aware of everything going on around her and anxious to join in. Julia was the “baby” of the family and resisted her title from the start. She was third in birth order with a doting big brother, Jonathan, and an adoring sister, Jenna, only 14 months older than she, who can’t remember life without her baby sister, Ju.
She walked a few days before her first birthday, and required little assistance with anything. Shortly after she began walking she also assumed the role of dressing herself. Although her fashion sense at the age of 18 months required some attention, she would say, “I can do it MY-FULF (translation: myself)!” No one could do anything for Julia and I would often tell her the job of a mama is to teach her children and to keep them from hurting themselves. I also wanted to help her and show her things so she could learn how to do them properly. At age 3, our muscular Julia, who is power in a small package, showed an aptitude for gymnastics. Her grandpa attached a trapeze bar to the outdoor swing set and she developed balance and coordination which seemed to be advanced for a three year old. Julia loved dolls and had an unusual maternal instinct from birth. She fed her babies, changed their clothes and diapers, and was very attentive to their needs.
Ju and Jenna had a close bond from birth. Age was not a factor and their personalities were so different but complimentary. They both enjoyed being dressed up like little princesses, from hair accessories to matching shoes. I often found Ju getting out my big girl nail polish and giving Jenna and her manicures on the white carpet! She was often guilty of “plundering” (as Ma D would say) and getting into every cabinet in the house. I still remember the day Julia swallowed acetone nail polish remover while giving a manicure. Thank goodness the Poison Control Center said not to worry and the worst thing we could expect was a “buzzed” 3 year old!!! Not only was she a manicurist, but a hair dresser as well. Julia gave herself her first haircut while Jonathan and Jenna encouraged her and absolved themselves of any blame. The real giveaway was the hunk of hair on top of the trash in the waste basket. Ju could always do it “HER-FULF” and by the age of 2, Ma D had given her a new term of endearment, that would prove to be her mantra for years to come: “O Bay Ju- she won’t do!” She was always into mischief, no where near the crime scene, and always pleading innocent!
Julia always seemed to take care of the whole household. About five times a day she would look at me and say, “Mama, is there anything I can do for you?” She would do her chores and those of her siblings and then think it was a treat to help make school lunches. She would remind me of things that I should be reminding her of and she was always helpful, sometimes to a fault! I worried when we put her into a Pre-K3 school program in Florida that she would be “too much of a good thing” for her teacher. I remember warning her teacher of her sometimes overly helpful nature that sometimes could be construed as ” bossy”. I worried her teacher may squelch her gifts of giving and help. Much to my relief, Julia’s teachers have embraced her gifts and loved her. What’s not to love?
Ju has a charismatic smile and a gleam in her eyes. She is friends with everyone and helps keep things together. She gently coached her peers and generously offered to stay back a year in kindergarten and be a peer tutor for her teacher’s incoming class! Self-motivation drives her to redo her work until it meets her approval. She LOVES learning and going to school! She considers school a treat/privilege and hates to miss a day! Math is her favorite subject and art is her favorite elective. Julia loves to learn new things and actually has learned how to sew and even thread my machine (the hardest part of sewing)! She even helped sew her own Toto from the Wizard of Oz costume for Halloween last year. Cooking is also a big treat for her and she enjoys taking charge of everything we do:)!
Julia has the ability to adapt and embrace change. When she figured out it was very unfair to keep asking her brother to play Barbies, she decided to concede and start dividing her time equally between Jenna and Jonathan. She now enjoys playing Legos, shooting hoops, and playing tackle football with Jonathan. She wanted to build their relationship and figured it would be helpful to be interested in what interested him. Besides, she really likes it!
After 2 years of praying for a baby brother, the kids’ dreams came true! Julia’s baby doll came to life on November 13, 2010 and Ju forgot all about wanting a boy. Baby Jacqueline (a.k.a. “Jaxi”) is the last of 4 children and God’s proof to us that “there is life after cancer”. She has been a tremendous blessing to the entire Cobb family and Julia assumed the role of mother right from the start. She was anxious to feed, change diapers and clothes, bathe, and play with her new sister. She pushes her stroller and tells everyone that “this is my baby sister” and my nickname is “Little Mama."
God gifted Julia with enough grit and determination for ten people and we have often said that this would serve her well in life. Little did we know that Julia would need her “fight” sooner, rather than later. On December 8th, Julia said her shoulder hurt. When I went to rub it and apply a heating pad, I noticed there was a rather large knot on her left scapula (shoulder blade). Daddy insisted that we immediately follow up with the pediatrician. After an x ray, untrasound, and CT scan, it was suspicious enough to warrant a biopsy. It was then we made a decision to go to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas for a diagnosis of this “mass”. God has really directed our steps and looked after the Cobb Family, especially since this is our 3rd encounter with cancer in the last 5 1/2 years. Julia’s daddy, Jonathan, was diagnosed with rare intestinal cancer and was treated and cured at MD Anderson in 2006. Julia’s grandmother, Tamara, was diagnosed with the same rare cancer in ’06, just 2 months prior to Jonathan’s diagnosis! She unfortunately passed away, but we believe God sent her as the angel to save his life and to detect his cancer early enough to be successfully treated.
Now, 5 years later, we really were devastated to find that our precious little Julia would have a fight of her own. We flew out to Houston for many diagnostic tests and a biopsy on December 22nd, 2011 confirmed Julia had Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. One is never prepared for such news and I guess having cancer touch your family so recently either makes it harder to hear this diagnosis or makes it slightly easier to process. We are still not sure. Our plans were put into fast forward, but we were fortunate to be able to celebrate Christmas with our family in Florida before flying back to Houston to start immediate treatment.
To daddy’s credit, Julia was kept in “the know” right from the moment we found her lump. He has been 100% truthful with her about what she could expect. She knew there would be chemotherapy which would make her feel sick and/or nauseous, lots of needles, tests, and a long treatment plan that would include being separated from her family for a long time. The pediatric “Child Life” team at the hospital has been awestruck at how Julia has responded to her circumstances, cancer diagnosis, and treatment.
Julia has embraced and taken ownership of her cancer as well as losing her hair. She is proud of herself and the way she looks- she was surprised when she discovered “how cute she [was]“! I also know that her confidence and charisma has spilled over to the other children she has met as she receives treatment. Ju has made friends at MD Anderson’s School as well as at the Ronald McDonald House (our home away from home). She makes cards and says prayers for all the children who have cancer and other sicknesses. Our life has been made easier because we are blessed to have the love and support of so many people!
Jonathan’s parents, residing in Florida, have given of themselves, emotionally, physically and financially over the last 5 years sometimes to their own detriment. Now, as if 2006 were just a dress rehearsal, the family team has assembled and Ma D has stayed in Alabama with Jonathan, Jenna and Daddy, while Papa has come to Houston to be with Julia, Jaxi, and me. We all have a niche and a need to fill and fortunately we have family to come to our aid.
God is teaching me so much while I am here with my daughter. It would be so easy to fall in the devil’s trap of self pity and question God. Life isn’t without heartache and our reaction to hardships is never perfect, but “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” and that includes moving beyond heartache and hardships. God is using our trials to do something greater than we could have ever imagined! I am grateful that God did not reveal my future or show me what would lie ahead, but I know that He also promises us “a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). I know that God’s mercies are new every morning and we are thanking Him in advance for the miracle healing He is going to bring to our little Julia! And through Him, Ju CAN!!!