“I have three amazing kids. One of them has cancer. Please be nice to me today.”
As a mom I’ve experienced quite a few emotional upheavals. After Abbie was born and we moved back to the States I found myself thoroughly surprised to be in the midst of post-partum depression. Within the year Abbie was diagnosed with a 40 db loss in one ear and would need a hearing aid. I limped through the preschool years with as much joy as I could find and was eager to get to September of 2010 – the month that all three would finally be in school, Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd.
It was a short-lived respite.
On Friday, December 3rd , Clara (our 1st grader) had a minor fall on the playground at school and by Friday evening we knew something was wrong. I brought her to a pediatrician Saturday morning where they determined she was bleeding internally and sent Clara via ambulance to Children’s Hospital. The physicians all thought she had a minor rupture in her spleen and with surgery and a short hospital stay she would be good as new.
During her MRI to get a good look at the tear, Brian and I held her hands and chatted about the stickers and fun doctors. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the radiologist calling more and more doctors in. Each doctor looked increasingly serious. They were pointing. Talking in hushed tones. I remember leaning in to Brian and whispering that I didn’t like the looks on their faces.
My stomach started knotting.
Within 20 minutes of her MRI the ER doctor pulled us into a different ER room. He pulled up the image of Clara’s abdomen and explained that her spleen was just fine. He clarified that the large eggplant sized organ we could see on the MRI was a rapidly growing cancerous tumor that had completely overtaken her left kidney and was bleeding into her abdomen.
I felt as if a wave had just crashed into me – pushing me down into undercurrents. I was completely disoriented. I sat in silence – barely able to hear the doctor telling us this was a treatable cancer and that she was in excellent care. I started to sob quietly and didn’t stop for a good hour. Brian cried with me for a while and then began making the awful phone calls to family. He was a rock and I leaned heavily on him and his ability to make decisions and put on a calm demeanor for Clara. He walked with Clara to her 2nd MRI and held her hand as they looked to see if the cancer had spread (it hadn’t).
It was a terrible new reality we had hardly any time to embrace. Within 18 hours a fall on the playground, our beautiful 6 year old was diagnosed with a stage III Wilms Tumor. Monday, three days later, she had a full nephrectomy to remove the tumor and kidney and, once recovered from the surgery, quickly began radiation and a 25-week chemotherapy regimen.
Today our Clara is doing well. We have visits every three months to oncologists for complete scans and echo-cardiograms to see if the cancer has come back and to watch for those insidious long term side effects. By the time she is done with elementary school we fully expect to hear the beautiful three letter acronym NED (no evidence of disease).