The peaceful, happy and normal world we lived in turned upside down three years ago today when Kate was diagnosed with leukemia…for the first time. She was just a baby…only 26 months old. She still had baby fuzz hair. She still used pacis. She would work at it for 25 months but she would kick cancer to the curb. She was high-risk upon diagnosis but for some reason, that’s not what we heard. What we heard was “this is the most treatable type of pediatric cancer. If you have to have a child with cancer, THIS is the one you want.”
I don’t know why some things happen the way they do. I don’t know why our prayers worked during Kate’s initial diagnosis, allowing her to stay with us another 2 years and 5 months. I don’t know why, when she was diagnosed with a relapse, God’s answer to our prayers was never meant to be answered here on Earth. Only heaven would do that time.
Sometimes I try to remind myself that if she hadn’t left this Earth, she would be here, but she would not be well. Relapsed leukemia is scary. Harder. MUCH harder. She’d be isolated from her family and friends…a much bigger challenge now that she was older and had really experienced life. She likely would be far away from home in another hospital, awaiting a bone marrow transplant. If she found a match and the transplant took place, the following 100 days and beyond would be excruciating. I’ve read about them. It’s hell. It’s terrifying. They’d bring her body to the brink of death and we’d watch and pray, hoping her body would kick in and defy the odds. This time, the chemo would be stronger. There would be more…more of everything. More pills, more hospitals, more tubies, more pokies, more fear, more nausea, more trouble eating, more weight loss, more terrifying infections, more ANC drops, more sleepless nights. And she would REMEMBER. She would KNOW this was a really big thing and she would be terrified.
I cannot believe we are here. No one can. My little girl, who during her first fight with cancer, did so well I felt guilty. There were challenges, trust me. Her lasting effects were noticeable. But she did not spend months in the hospital. She never had a chemo delay. She didn’t spend the majority of her time locked down on low ANC fever watch. I had (probably) the healthiest cancer patient most have seen. But she died anyway. Not the first time. No….the first time, she was MEANT to beat it. And beat it she did thanks to the care and love we received at our hospital and later, in our clinic.
This day brings back an enormous amount of painful memories. We should be spending today remember and recalling that day our lives were split in two; before and after cancer, but celebrating being on the other side. Instead, we remember that if not for today…three years ago…we’d have never be led to our ultimate fate.
As painful and as crisp and clear as the memories are, I want to share a word of heartfelt thanks to those who made our first 10 days in this new world more bearable. The nurses and doctors involved in Kate’s care for those first weeks sit in a very, very special place in my heart. They taught us, guided us, held us, understood us and loved us. Some even insisted we check our blood sugar. Doctors Piguet, Dulman and Isaac…nurses Lauren, Lindsay, Sarah, Becca, Erica, Ally, Molly and child life therapist Holly…I know there are others. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for giving me the gift of Kate’s life, however short it would turn out to be. Because of you, I got what I did and I love you all from the bottom of my heart.
Every year for the rest of my life, August 15th will represent the enormous shift in our lives. It’s unreal how much pain a simple date on the calendar can create in one heart.
I will never understand why I couldn’t just keep her.