Child cancer: Don't wait till tomorrow to wear the sparkly shoes

What sparkly shoes taught Zoe and her mum.
What sparkly shoes taught Zoe and her mum.  

Here's how my daughter Zoe and childhood cancer taught me not to wait til tomorrow to wear the sparkly shoes.

At the beginning of 2012, Zoe was excited to be going to Camp Quality, a camp for kids living with cancer. One of the activities planned was a dress up party based on movies. Zoe and her camp companion were going as Dorothy and the good witch Glinda fromĀ The Wizard of Oz.

We looked all over town for red sparkly shoes to serve as Ruby Slippers for Zoe's Dorothy, but there were none to be found. We had to decide what was most important - red or sparkly. "Sparkly" was Zoe's unequivocal answer.

We settled on some purpley pink sparkly shoes, but even then we couldn't find the right size. We bought a bigger size and stuffed the toes with paper so they would stay precariously on her dainty feet. She was a charming Dorothy and had the time of her life at the party and at camp.

When she returned, I considered putting the shoes away until she grew into them, or to save them for "best" but not too seriously, since I couldn't get them off her feet. She wore them everywhere. School, her after school care programme, performance lessons, when we went shopping, to the park, bike riding, there was nowhere she wouldn't wear them. As well as being exactly the kind of cute girly objects that she adored, they also served as a reminder of the fun experiences and self esteem boost she'd had at camp, how accepted she was, the friends she had made, the activities that bonded them.

When Zoe died in September of that year after her cancer relapsed, she had still not grown into the shoes. The toes were still stuffed with paper and they still barely stayed on her feet. But they were well worn, the toes scuffed, the sides stretched from being well loved and played in.

When we gave the funeral director the clothes for her to wear in her casket of woven willow, of course they had to include the sparkly shoes. I like to think, that after those final terrible few weeks, when she had had enough, that she simply clicked her heels three times and said "there's no place like home".

These days I wear my favourite perfume every day, I drink from my fancy wine glasses and wear my best jewellery. I try to say yes to small (ok, sometimes big) pleasures today; ice-cream at the beach, a last minute invitation to a movie, a chance for a holiday somewhere I've always wanted to go - even if they might blow tomorrow's budget a bit.

That's what Zoe and childhood cancer taught me - to always wear the sparkly shoes today, because we might not always get a tomorrow.


Do you have some things you save for "best" or for the "right" time? Your favourite perfume, the expensive wedding present crockery, your fanciest lingerie? Are there some things you own that are so "best" that you've never actually used them?

Have you got the equivalent of some sparkly shoes tucked away in your closet, waiting for the "right" occasion? Maybe today is the day to decide that being alive (and alive to possibility) makes it the right occasion.

This post originally published onĀ