I found myself in a hospital emergency room with my husband, staring at an x-ray clearly showing a tumor in my son’s neck bone. I felt elated to have found the cause of his pain, naively not understanding what lay a head. A pediatric oncologist mentioned the c-word, as she walked into our room and then we heard it again on the phone spoken by our pediatrician. A biopsy was done confirming what I had tried to pray away. Cancer had invaded my four year old son’s body. It was a defining moment. Everything around me disappeared with the truth of the doctor’s quietly spoken words. The small waiting room seemed to shrink and fill with darkness. Tears streamed down my face. Fear filled my heart. My husband began to talk, but I couldn’t hear his words. And I ran from the room trying to get away. Impossible. Time stopped, but the world kept right on ticking.
The hours and days ahead were full of confusion, anger, fear and loss. The learning curve seemed insurmountable. So much information was thrust my way, I was numb, my mind felt like mush with the details running into each other blurring everything.
New faces constantly entered our lives. I examined every move the nurses made finding myself in hyper-vigilant mode. I cautiously watched the childlife worker, as she played with my son. Various doctors came and went and there was always the medical student hanging around, fascinated, yet unsure of their abilities. I felt I couldn’t trust anyone. After all, who were these people asking me the same questions over and over again? Who were these people so interested in my son?
A day or two later my husband and I sat in another tiny windowless room with a nurse and two doctors, reading through a long list of side effects from the treatment they were proposing. My stomach ached as we went over each item. Wasn’t there a better way? This is so barbaric. How could I allow this? They wanted our signatures. We signed the papers and were left alone. Huddled together, we felt devastation and exhaustion. Too soon the chemo began, but I left, fearful of what was to come. I drove home to be with my girls. My husband stayed cheering on the toxins. He was sure they would kill the monster. After eleven days of scans, a biopsy, surgery and chemo, we finally went home. But our journey had just begun.
Today…three years later… Joshua is alive. Today he has hair on his head and eyelashes with eyebrows. Today he laughs, is full of energy and has a twinkle in his eye as he teases his sisters. Today he is in second grade reading and working sums. Today he plays a mean Star Wars video game, sleeps in his House in the Trees with us and loves Legos. Today he goes to birthday parties and has friends over. Today his smile fills my world. Today my world is full of light.
Yet, there is an underlying sadness, the grief of other children lost, an innocence gone. Today I am a different person. I was forced to enter a world no one should ever have to enter…the world of childhood cancer. The impact is forever. Three years ago today my world went black and yet…there was a tiny pin hole of light. I just couldn’t see it. The darkness seemed overpowering, but it wasn’t. Three years ago today, I thought I would never be able to breathe again. But I am breathing. I thought I would never stop crying, but I have.
Three years ago today my world, my son’s world and my family’s world changed forever…but we are still standing.
Three years ago today...and we are so grateful...