One of my colleagues, Christy, is a mom with a 2 year old baby girl and a 6 year old little boy. In what has to be every parent’s worst nightmare, her little boy Bryant has just been diagnosed with fairly advanced cancer – acute, stage III lymphoblastic lymphoma.
This weekend they flew down here to Seattle, and Bryant was admitted to Seattle Children’s Hospital. The parents are staying in the amazing Ronald McDonald House, and their lives are governed, now, by hospital visiting hours, doctors’ rounds and chemotheraphy schedules.
Apparently the long term survival rate for this type of cancer is quite high, even at Stage III or IV – some references give the average patient 75-90% odds of beating the disease. That’s great news, as long as you’re not one of the 10-25% who has issues. For more information, and to support research toward a cure for everyone, go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation.
From my reading, typical treatment is chemotherapy, both intravenously and via injection into the spinal canal, for up to 18-24 months. It can also include radiation therapy, depending on the symptoms. That’s an awful lot to put a little six year old, 55-lb body and spirit through!
I can’t even begin to imagine what they are feeling. It must be overwhelmingly difficult for a mother to remain cheerful, matter-of-fact and courageous for the child, in the face of her worst fears.
I’ve sat bedside vigil with both of my children as they’ve been hospitalized with serious medical issues – asthma and epilepsy, respectively – but both have been fairly immediately treatable and neither of those medical conditions have the grave burden of terrifying prognosis and long, arduous, invasive treatment. I would be cheerful and positive in the room with them, but the sight of my once-healthy son, pale and raccoon-eyed, painfully dragging an oxygen canister down the hall with him to the pediatric play area reduced me to tears in the bathroom more than once.
I personally tend to fight my fear, find hope, and feel a sense of control in information. I’m sure that Children’s Hospital is a great place, it has a very solid reputation, but at best hospitals are bureaucratic, ponderous and miserly with information. You can spend all day, hours building on hours, waiting without a bathroom break for a really critical detail that never ends up in your hands. I hope they receive the best support in the world from the medical staff at Children’s Hospital – answers to their questions, hope for their fears, and the physical assistance they need to make it through this long ordeal.
As a mom, I wish Christy all the courage, grace and hope in the world. I want her to feel free to question, cry, pray, and shout at the heavens when she needs to; hopefully, she can find some space where she can do just that.
Most importantly, I wish them well, in the most literal sense of the word.