As a mother, you worry about all kinds of things. Is my child hitting milestones? Is she eating the right things? Are we raising her well? Does she have an ear infection? All of the ‘normal’ things that parents think about as they raise their children.
Cancer was never even one of my worries.
Cancer happened to other families. We heard stories and said ‘Oh gosh I can’t even imagine. I don’t know what I would do-I just wouldn’t be able to get out of bed.’ We changed the channel when the St. Jude commercial came on because bald kids made us uncomfortable. We put our change in the ‘Kids Miracle Network’ jars because we hated having change in our pockets. We’d donate $20 to a GoFundMe, signed up for a 5K, and bought some T-shirt’s to support ‘those poor cancer families.’ And then we went about our sweet little sheltered, happy life.
There’s nothing wrong with that life. Until your eyes are opened to just how BIG the world really is.
On May 18, 2017, I went to work-like any other weekday. We had a field trip that day-which is a stressful day for a teacher. I was hot and sweaty and exhausted after a full day of wrangling 24 kiddos, handing out lunches and waters, riding on a school bus (which is horrible), and walking around with a backpack full of first aid, permission slips, inhalers, and sunscreen. I got home to my Sophie-like every other weekday. Her grandmother updated me on her day, said goodbye, and we has our after school home time-like every other day.
Except. Sophie had been hospitalized in March for a weird breathing episode and then diagnosed with asthma a few weeks before and we were monitoring her breathing and doing breathing treatments 3 times a day until we could get her into an allergy doctor. That was stressful but, she handled it like a champ and did her ‘breathings’ with no problems. Heck-half of the time she would fall asleep holding the mask on her face! It was so cute. When it was done, she’d pop up like she had been awake the whole time and shout proudly-ALL DONE!
On this day-she was breathing really hard and I didn’t like it at all. So, I did what most moms do-I called for opinions. I called my precious friend Monday, a nurse and fellow asthma mama and told her my concerns. She advised me to go ahead and do Sophie’s bedtime breathing treatment early and take her to the ER after that for evaluation because, you don’t play around with a 2 year old’s breathing. I called Jonathan and told him to head home for what would probably be a long night. Then I pulled my little love into my lap and started up her treatment. As I’m doing that I decided to call my coworker Toni-another asthma mom-to tell her what was going on and to let her know that I might need to take off the next day-we had track and field day the following day so this was SO not a great time for us to be sick! As I’m on the phone with Toni-my world fell apart. Sophie went limp in my lap and started turning blue. I screamed ‘TONI SHES NOT BREATHING I HAVE TO CALL 911!!!’ And hung up. I’m holding the breathing mask on Sophie with one hand and shakily calling 911 with the other. She-thankfully-came back around quickly but was still very pale and lethargic in my lap. At that exact moment Jonathan walked in, with no clue what was going on. He walks in to us on the floor, Sophie unconscious and me sobbing on the phone. The Lord was very obviously working in him right then because he immediately grabbed the diaper bag, a phone charger, the iPad, and my wallet with insurance cards in it. He even grabbed my shoes because I was barefoot.
The 911 operator stayed on the phone with me until The ambulance arrived and I carried her out, barefoot, with Jonathan right behind us. We got her on the gurney and oxygen on her and she came around very quickly. We took off and Jonathan-bless his heart had to follow us in the truck.
Long story short-we ended up at the Children’s ER with an X-ray of a softball sized tumor in her chest. We were wheeled up to the ICU at 4 in the morning because she couldn’t lay flat. Her bed was propped up to sitting because when she laid flat, she stopped breathing due to the tumor pushing on her airway. Our world was halted.
We started steroid chemo the next day to stop the tumor’s growth.
Cancer. A word no parent should hear.
Most of you know what all transpired from there and I honestly can’t write all of that out right now. But the point is-Childhood Cancer happens more than you think it does. It happens whether you’re rich, poor, white, Black, Hispanic, happy, sad, Old, or young. It’s real. It happens. And you’re not a cancer mom…..until you are.
One year later and I’ve learned way more than I’d ever want to learn.
I’ve learned words and acronyms like Nelarabine, mediastinal mass, NPO, PRN, stomapowder, chemo rash, fungal workup, PET Scan, ANC, platelets, hemoglobin, neutrophils, immunosuppression, Bactrim, neuropathy, isolation, port access, bath wipes, spinal tap-LP, intrathecal chemo, vincristine, SCU, neuro-rehab, chemo toxicity, Methotrexate, zofran……..And so many others.
One year since my world became much bigger. While I’m not thankful that my girl is gone…I am thankful that I’m more aware of how big the world is now. I’m more aware of the HUGE need for childhood cancer funding. I’m more aware of how incredible nurses are. I’m more aware of what parents in hospitals go through. I’m more aware of the long term need cancer families have…..I’m more aware. And because I’m more aware, I can do something about and you can to.
So today-in honor of one year since Sophie was diagnosed-will you consider #DoMoreForSoph and giving to Childhood cancer research? They currently get 4% of government cancer funding.
Our favorite research organizations are:
All of these support childhood cancer research, support families currently in treatment, and help families that have completed treatment but still need long term support.