This year of chemo is almost complete. I hardly have words to express how happy we are.
Today is March tenth. Last year on March tenth I was completely oblivious to the turn my life was about to take. I'd have two more days until I found out something was wrong. On the 12th, I got a call from Anna's school that she wouldn't turn her head. After an E.R. trip we knew that she had a knot in her neck. The E.R. doctor suspected a sinus infection that had drained backward. We gave her antibiotics and as long as she was on them she seemed to improve. However, when they were gone she slipped back into high fevers and misery. I took her to her regular doctor who was getting ready to send her to an ear nose and throat specialist. My friend had told me a story about a girl who'd had a knot in her neck that needed to have it surgically drained. I was concerned, but not worried.
April 8th is a day I will never forget. My Anna got off the school bus on a seemingly normal day at school. She ran a high fever again and I started to freak out. I drove her an hour and a half to the children's hospital rather than chancing the E.R. doctor who had told us it was a sinus infection again. Into the wee hours of the night I was awoken by the E.R. doctor thinking surely he was going to say we needed a surgical procedure to drain the nodes. He had told me previously that he needed to rule out lymphoma, and I immediately put that out of my head. "It's not lymphoma", I thought. His news was that the swollen lymph nodes had spread into the chest. At first that news didn't register. Then he followed with, "I've spoken to the oncologist here." That registered. Oncologist? He was trying to tell me that it was likely my daughter did in fact have lymphoma.
The hour and a half drive home I didn't know what to think. Lymphoma. Lymphoma. It just kept running through my mind. I got Anna home and got her into bed. I went to my room and kneeled by my bedside. "Please don't take her", I cried to the Lord. "Please don't take her." It was the most desperate moment of my life. I managed to crawl in the bed and actually sleep a few hours. In the morning we took Anna to her doctor to be referred right back to the hospital and admitted. She wasn't eating or drinking, so she needed to be in-patient. A biopsy was scheduled and Anna was absolutely miserable with fever, pain and fear. She didn't understand what was going on, but she was upset about the doctors and nurses coming in touching and poking her constantly.
Two days later a doctor came in and told us the news. It was lymphoma. How could this happen? How does a nine year old who already deals with special needs get cancer on top of that? You'd think I'd be angry at God, but I wasn't. I thought of the verse, "I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer! I have overcome the world." I knew that the only one to turn to was my overcomer. Anna's overcomer. Still, it was a shock, and it took a long time to sink in.
Over the next few months, we got into the chemo groove. We were away from Essie for so long. With her spunky spirit it was too much for me to handle having both girls and trying to be there for Anna's emotional plus physical needs. She went to Florida to stay with her grandparents and dad while I took care of Anna. Her absence was as difficult as Anna's need of care. Thankfully we were reunited with her after about six months of figuring it all out.
Family was not what I expected. I was attacked by some (for not doing what they thought I should be doing or doing what they thought I shouldn't be doing), others just couldn't handle seeing Anna so sick so they didn't come around. I had a minimum amount of help. Not what you would expect at all. I spoke to other people who had a family member go through cancer, and they said it was the same with them.
The doctors told us to expect to have hospital visits from time to time. Any time she ran a fever we had to take her to the E.R. This resulted in three additional hospital stays over the year, and two additional trips to the E.R. to get antibiotics and tests.
Now, to have to go through cancer...we were so glad it was lymphoma. Even though her type of lymphoma was not one of the ones considered "curable" unfortunately...chemo is a year long treatment and the prognosis is really positive. Children in particular respond well to the treatment. There are kids with leukemia that have two and three years of treatment. As long as this year has been, I can't imagine having to do it all over again. Then all over again for the three year patients.
Chemo was six weeks of induction, then 15 cycles of every three week chemo. Here I sit. Chemo cycle 14 ended last night. One more. Just one more. I know that the end of chemo doesn't mean the end of treatment as a whole. We will have to do labs, scans, and have her port removed. Check ups will continue for years; but, the chemo was the hardest part. The chemo is almost over. Can this be real? Can this be true? How does a parent feel sitting where I'm sitting? Relieved. And nervous. Now that we've gotten through this part, what if the cancer comes back? What if we have to go through this all again? This is where faith is needed.
The word of God tells us that when we ask God for something we need to believe that he will give it to us. I do. I cannot deny that the thoughts try to creep in, but I push them away. Though it is common for cancer to return, it doesn't always. I have asked my God to get rid of that lymphoma and all other cancers forever. Cancer is not allowed in Anna's body. Or Essies! That's another thought you think. I got this one kid through this...what if it happens to the other kid?
When we went to the clinic to receive chemotherapy, we were shocked at how rare childhood cancer is not. It's not as rare as you hope. The clinic was full five days a week of kids getting chemo. Soon after Anna's diagnosis we found out that some friends of ours we hadn't spoken to in a while have a daughter that was diagnosed with leukemia. That precious girl will have to endure at least two years of this treatment, and she will have to be in-patient at the hospital for her chemo. (Anna got to go to the clinic and get the rest of her chemo at home. Of course it fell on me to administer it, which isn't fun. Yet, better than being in the hospital.)
Again, with the thought of Essie I push the thoughts away. I cling to faith. I trust God. I believe in my overcomer. I believe we are overcomers in him. As with all things in my life as a parent, I experience this with mixed emotion. So grateful the Lord has seen us through. So happy chemo is almost over. So painful when I think of what we have been through. Such a need to cling to faith when worry tries to creep in.
I am reminded of the title lyrics of the Tom Petty song..."Don't Come Around Here No More". Even though I hate poor grammar, that's what I say to lymphoma. "Hey! Don't come around here no more. Whatever you're looking for...don't come around here no more." Goodbye lymphoma. Goodbye chemo. We won't miss you. Ever.