After you’ve heard those words; “your daughter has cancer,” there are many ways it can go and there is really no way to know for sure…this becomes clearer over time.
Diagnosis, active treatment, end of treatment, cancer comes back (recurrence), active treatment again, possible survivorship with ongoing treatment and life-long sequelae, secondary cancers caused by the treatments that saved their life initially or an other recurrence and the cycle starts again and again with very little light some days.
With cancer, all sorts of things can change at any time, for better or for worse. While it would be great to know what to expect, there is no way to predict how anyone will do.
Tuesday Abbigail shared her radiant personality with her MRI nurses for the umpteenth time. This was her regularly scheduled scan to check her abdomen and pelvis to see how her liver tumour is. Last night we received the much anticipated call from her oncologist to let us know the results. We knew the tumour would still be there, but what we were praying for was it’s stability and those prayers were answered. Her liver lesion continues to stay stable with little to no growth or spread. As I received this news, driving with three kids behind me in their seats, I couldn’t help but hear pitty, sadness and disbelief on the other end as she said my name. She explained that the radiologist reported suspicion of metastasized neuroblastoma within the bone marrow of her pelvis. We used to worry about a possible relapse of her cancer, then it did return. Now we may never read an other report that says Abbigail is NED (no evidence of disease) but we come as close as we can each time they scan and report that her liver tumour remains stable. Last night our “normal” changed again.
Today I had to kiss my kids goodbye and tell my baby girl, that for the first time since diagnosis, Mama wouldn’t be there to hold her hand while she got her bloodwork done. I returned to work and it turns out it was harder today on me than on her thankfully. Next week will prove to be much more difficult than I could have ever imagined my return to work being. Due to the recent news of this suspicious lesion in her pelvis area, Abbigail will have to face her biggest fear at CHEO. She will have to do it without Mama for the very first time. This two-day procedure that will be performed next week, called an MIBG scan, involves injecting radioactive dye into her body, which will then be scanned 24hrs later to view any neuroblastoma that may be active in her little body. I walked the halls at work today with one of those “everything is fine” smiles when in reality my world was crumbling before me once again. My baby girl may have to face the innocence robbing disease that childhood cancer is once again and I am petrified at what it will do to her. Mentally I wasn’t at work, I was in a hospital isolation room watching my baby be infused with life saving poison again and I could not understand why life has put me in this office chair and not by her side.
I can’t count how many times today I was asked how I do it? And I heard countless times that “I am strong and amazing.” They want to know how we are all doing, especially Abbigail. It is difficult to relive the daily pain so publicly but honestly if you ask, I’m not strong, or remarkable…I’m a mom. I’m angry. Furious. I have never been so mad in my life at anything as I am at cancer. It messed with the wrong family this time. I recount her journey countless times as I run into people I haven’t seen in a while or others who recognize me and want to know more than the words I share online. I share intimate photos of Abbigail publicly. I open up our journey to strangers. I publicly journal my feelings as a mother who is experiencing the agonizing and ruthless pain cancer inflicted on my baby. No matter how raw and unpolished my words, feelings or photos are at times, I want the world to know who my beautiful Abbigail is; strong, brave, fierce, so loving and one of a kind! These reasons are why I appear strong, and why I share the worst days of my life so publicly.
I have become a different person since February 2012 when I was introduced to the world of childhood cancer in the worst possible way but I never want Abbigail to see anything less than what I pray for and hope for each and every time I beg for mercy. Today I was weak, I cried driving to work, I laughed at jokes I didn’t hear because my mind was clouded with fears for my daughters future…her life. Today I was not brave, I wasn’t strong, but that will not keep me from striving for better tomorrow as I pull away from my waving babies. I must always think positive, never give up hope, praise my children on any sign of improvement, and most importantly of all, never let Abbigail or the boys see me give up. I have become Abby’s crutch during this journey and she will react to my feelings and fears but will also react to my positive thinking.
So tomorrow I will report to work, I will support my husband as he holds our daughter through her fears for the first time alone and I will continue to pray and have faith that Abbigail’s fate extends beyond cancer because after you’ve heard “those words,” your world is never the same again and you realize that the control you once thought you had, never really existed.