Friday, June 24, 2011
I walked with my son today through a door that read Oncology. In the three weeks that we have been traveling the detour, I had been busy making plans and dealing with family and friends. I had not allowed myself to deal with the fact we were on the detour. There in black and white, were the letters O N C O L O G Y. Seeing them made my stomach flip. At the registration desk, my son must have noticed my reaction because he asked me if I was okay. I composed myself and said yes. I felt silly for being the one affected. I mean he is the one with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. I am just the mom.
As we were sitting in the examination room waiting on the doctor, my mind raced back to all the times I had taken him to the doctor's office. I remembered his first visit at two weeks old. The doctor laughed that his blue eyes were going to be hard to say no to. The trip to get stitches when he was 2. He fell at the daycare on my first day back at work after maternity leave. I viewed that as a sign I needed to be a stay-at home mom. The day before 1st grade when he fell and broke his wrist after his little brother dared him to stand on top of something. Most times, the visits were for nothing. Today, it was for something really big.
The doctor came in and explained in detail what would be happening during the course of treatment. He kept assuring us that this is very treatable and the survivor rate is exceedingly high. He asked about his health history. I relayed everything and commented that "he was always healthy". The doctor looked at me and said "he still is". At that moment, I felt intense gratitude to the man I had just met.
In two weeks, we will start a new journey on the detour. That is when the treatments start. We are both glad it has come to the point where the enemy has been identified and will be battled. My son decided he will dye his hair a wild color right before the treatments. It was a suggestion from two of his female friends. They will join him in this adventure. They figure if he has to lose his hair, it might as well be colorful.
Last year when my son was getting ready to head off for college, I pulled out one of his favorite books from his childhood. It was "Oh, The Places You'll Go". The sentiment seemed so perfect for that time in his life. This afternoon, sitting in the doctor's office, my mind wandered back to the book. Again, the sentiment seemed perfect to me. Oh, The Places You'll Go....
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
My life got hit with a huge detour yesterday. We learned our incredible 19 year old son has lymphoma. The news was like a kick in the stomach. I knew we could get bad news but never expected it. Always the optimist.
My son handled it with such grace. He looked at me after telling me the news (the doctor called at 8am), and said he had done his research and knew the survivor rate was incredibly high. I told him it better be.
He spent the day organizing his life - telling the important people in his life the news. He said he wanted them to know from him, not some rumor. His extraordinary friends handled it as I had expected, with jokes and plans. They are already talking remission parties, schedules to take him to treatment, and hat shopping should he lose his hair. The new people in his circle, the college friends - have offered up medical contacts/experts and a willingness to do anything needed. I watched in awe as he was calm and upbeat with each and every one, making sure they were okay.
I, too, contacted family and friends to share our news. The outpouring of support was overwhelming.
My son and I share the same sense of humor. We kept finding things to laugh about yesterday. I am sure it was our way of staying sane. I would tell him about some of the reactions I was getting and laughed that I should make a list. So that got me thinking that maybe the blog would be a good forum for me. So from time to time, I will post on our journey through the detour.
For now, some advice should you know someone who might be experiencing what we are.
1) Tell them about people who survived, not died. I wish I had a dollar yesterday for the stories I heard about such and such and their illness. None of them were what my son had, and they all ended with "they died". It actually got to be funny to me. I know they were trying to be comforting but that is not the way to do it.
2) Telling people is exhausting. Don't take up lots of their time. I told people we will keep everyone informed via email. Today, I fielded lots of calls from people wanting to know what was going on. I replied that they will find out via email.
3) Nothing, and I mean nothing prepares you for dealing with your child in this situation. My mother died from breast cancer so I have been closely affected by a serious illness. This is a whole other beast. Respect that.
4) Life goes on. There is still a job, family, meals to cook and laundry to do. Plus a wedding to host. I was adamant yesterday that my son will not be thought of as sick first. And yes, he has lymphoma but he still needs to clean his room.
5) Look at your friends and relatives as a network. Through our network, we have medical resources at some of the finest institutions in the world plus the CDC. It was comforting to sit down and figure out that this person knows this, and this person knows that. And use them. They want to help and hope you ask.
I found this quote yesterday. I wrote it out and said it shall be our motto during this trip. It reads, "Hope is the companion of power, and mother of success; for who so hopes strongly has within him the gift of miracles.” Yep, ever the optimist.