“We can’t shut the door to cancer.”The allergist stated as my two-year-old bounded around the room.
“We got blood tests last year because I was worried about his lymph nodes and the tests were normal.” I responded. “The doctor said it wasn’t cancer.” I brought my baby boy to the allergist, thinking he would be subject to an uncomfortable scratch test and that we may need to eliminate dairy from his diet, but instead CANCER.
“The fact his blood tests were normal a year ago is great, but we can’t rule out cancer. I’m going to order some blood tests this morning and I think you need to see a Hem-Onc doctor.”
“What is a hem-onc doctor?” I asked.
“A pediatric oncologist.”
Fast-forward three months later, blood tests, ultrasounds, chest x-rays, and echoes, the specialists agreed that they should biopsy the lymph node on his neck in order to rule out lymphoma.
On Monday, June 20th, my wild two-year-old boy had surgery. He screamed as I held him down and the anesthesiologist put a gas mask over his face. His thrashing stopped and he drifted off to sleep as tears ran down my cheeks. The five minute biopsy took more than an hour and the ENT doctor removed his entire lymph node. The node was larger than they expected and he decided to remove it if there was any chance of a malignancy. The ENT said it looked like a normal node, but he wouldn’t have the results until Friday.
The morning of June 21, my baby woke up in his crib whimpering in pain. My head spun, I didn’t know a biopsy meant possibly removing the node? The doctor must have seen something in the node to compel him to remove it? Did my baby have cancer?
I panicked silently as I held my sweet boy and we watched Mater Tales on Netflix a thousand times. I called his pediatrician, his oncologist, and the ENT to see if the removal of his giant lymph node was standard procedure. I wept while my baby dozed on my chest.”I have a cut on my neck,”my baby cried. “Who did this to me?”he whimpered throughout the day. Finally, that evening the oncologist called and told me that the pathology came back normal and healthy.
Relief swept through me. My baby is HEALTHY!
However, I am intimately aware that the conversation with my son’s Oncologist could have gone the opposite direction. I know that life can change and does change in an instant. There are many families dealing with devastating diagnosis and loss, where the unimaginable becomes their instantaneous reality. My heart and prayers go out to these families.
No one is immune to sickness or loss. We can do all we can to keep our families safe, but there are many things we cannot control, sometimes lightning strikes and our journey changes. It sucks, but we change course.
I debated sharing this story.
I am sharing this because my baby is brave and resilient.
I am sharing this because no one knows what strangers are going through.
I am sharing this to remember this moment.
I am sharing this because I am incredibly lucky in love and life, despite the pot holes my family has hit recently.
I am sharing this because anyone can be hit with a pediatric cancer diagnosis, and pediatric cancers are surprisingly underfunded.
A big thank you to Julie Harris who captured this photo, which includes my boy’s giant and now missing lymph node.
Also, a big thank you to our pediatric oncologist Dr. Julie Zimbelman, who got all my baby’s tests done quicker than expected and called me with results before they were even sent to her office. If you are in the unfortunate situation of needing a pediatric hem onc doctor in Denver, she is amazing.