May 15, 2014 was a very emotional day for me. It was the day I gave birth to our youngest daughter, Madelyn. It was also the day, my older daughter, Sophia, (then 2 years old) was scheduled for a biopsy at Northern Westchester Hospital.
Madelyn was 5 days passed her due date, and I had hoped to have given birth and be discharged, because this biopsy was my priority. As my contractions began that night before, after 11 pm, I became stressed and saddened that I wouldn’t be there before and after Sophia was put to sleep for this procedure.
A month earlier, we discovered a large lump on Sophia’s neck. The lump seemed to have appeared overnight. She didn’t appear sick and didn’t have a cold.
I wasn’t too alarmed though, because I thought it might be a swollen gland or a cyst. In the past, I have had a couple of cysts removed. I also remember my mother having to visit her dermatologist about having a cyst before, therefore, I imagined it was common for my family.
So without much worry, I made an appointment for her to be seen by one of the pediatricians in her doctor’s office (her primary doctor was away at the time). We discussed the possibilities for what this might be and options for ruling out some of those possibilities. I remember some suggestions being an infection or an injury. Sophia was (and still is) a thumb sucker, and we discussed an atypical mycobacterial infection as another possibility that is common for thumb suckers.
We were prescribed horrible-tasting antibiotics to rule out a number of bacterial infections while exploring other tests, including bloodwork.
I was then advised to schedule an appointment with an ENT. He prescribed us a different horrible-tasting antibiotic and recommended that we schedule an ultrasound. We also had to follow up with her primary physician in the interim.
I was full term in my pregnancy and running from my appointments to Sophia’s appointments, and still squeezing in playdates and chauffeuring my older kids to their activities.
Moms find strength where there should be none.
The ultrasound came back inconclusive, so they decided to schedule Sophia for a biopsy. At the time, I wouldn’t admit to myself that I knew that cancer was a real possibility. That was like betraying my baby girl. To hope so badly one moment and to be overwhelmed with fear the next moment put us on a seesaw of emotion.
May 10th came and went and there was no newborn Madelyn, so I just hoped I could hold off until after Sophia’s procedure. But of course, my contractions came the night before, and within 4 hours, beautiful Madelyn was born.
So her father went alone. He described the experience as a very emotional one to me. When they gave her the sleeping medicine to prepare her for the sleeping gas, she was very goofy and silly. Dave was okay up until the moment she was given gas to put her to sleep. She struggled and cried in fear until going limp. Alone outside the O.R, Dave became overwhelmed with emotion about the possibilities for our future. When she was wheeled into recovery, they were surrounded by oncology patients in recovery. He felt so sad and scared for his little girl. He could see the pity underneath the smiles of the kind nurses.
Immediately after, they returned to the hospital to visit me and Madelyn.
Two weeks later, we removed the bandage, and the lump had disappeared. We are still unsure of what caused it.
We had put this experience completely behind us. Lost and forgotten in our past until I was reminded that our lives could have been forever changed if that lump was cancer.
I came home one evening after my son’s football practice, with a flyer about a blood drive. On the flyer was a picture of Gio in his baseball uniform. He was diagnosed on Aug 10, 2016 with Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (Stage 3). He receives inpatient chemotherapy at the Maria Ferrari Children’s Hospital. His cancer is very aggressive so he receives 2 to 3 different chemo treatments each day for 5 consecutive days.
Gio has an upcoming birthday; he will be 5 years old on November 15th (13 days after Sophia’s 5th birthday).
I put the flyer on my refrigerator because I immediately connected with this family. This was also going to be the very first time I donated blood. The next morning, Sophia noticed Gio’s flyer and she said right away, “Mom that’s Gio, he went to my [summer] camp.” She wanted to know what the flyer was about and I had to tell her that he is very sick. Explaining this brought all those repressed memories back.
I look at Gio, and I see my children. It reminds me that this could be me at any moment.
While I want to stay optimistic and appreciative of my life, I realize, it can always be me or my family. Those affected by cancer are never prepared for the fight of their lives. With a cancer diagnosis, one day you don’t know, and the next day you do. And there is no going back, only fighting.