"Your Son Has Cancer"

It was exactly 10 years ago today that my son had his second surgery to attempt removal of his malignant abdominal tumour. He was 8 months old.

Every Hallowe'en, I am reminded of this most horrid of all Hallowe'ens.

Dennis (not his real name, but he is so much like Dennis the Menace that I thought the alias was appropriate) was born on a cold February afternoon, a chubby, almost-10 lb. angry little baby, whose cry was more like a banshee than a newborn. He was the picture of health.

Almost from the start, we (the family) made fun of his extremely bulbous, large, basketball-like belly. We thought it was hilarious -- so big and wide. It was so large, in fact, that although he was small enough to fit into newborn-sized clothing, his belly needed 12-month-or-older clothing. It was quite the dilemma, believe you me.

Two months old, and I begin noticing little Dennis -- who is no longer ugly and screeching like a banshee, but really really cute and fuzzy, and warm smelling like freshly baked bread -- is starting to vomit after every nursing, and crying, and snoring. I take him to the doctor, who helped deliver the little bugger, and who has known me since I was 16 years old, and tell him my concerns. The doctor takes a look at him, asks me what colour his vomit is (yellow, bright yellow), and says he's fine, he's probably just reacting to the antibiotics you're on (I had yet another uterine infection blasting inside of me).

So I went home. The next week, Dennis not only is still vomiting copious amounts of yellow bile, he begins to have extremely runny runny poops that are in no way ever contained in his cute little diapers. This time, the doctor says, "He's probably reacting to the antibiotics you're on."

I swear to god, I went back to the doctor every single week with more symptoms: more crying, starting to cry for lengthy periods at night without being consolable, his spine starting to stick out more than I really think a spine should stick out, etc. Finally, by the time the little chunky was 4 months old, his liver and spleen were coming out the sides of his body, his spine was scooping out his back, and his navel was sticking out like a tiny cigar, which looked really really weird. This time, Mr. Doctor took a look at him and said, "I'll call the hospital and see if we can get him in for an ultrasound."

To make a long story a bit shorter, we got in within an hour, they did the ultrasound, discovered what they thought was a large cyst on his liver that had basically taken up his entire abdominal cavity, and said he needed surgery. He was operated on the next week, and we almost lost him on the table. Apparently, they didn't realize until they went in that what they thought was a simple cyst was actually filled with blood vessels, very full, very bloody blood vessels that bled all over the place when the surgeon handily cut into my little baby. He hemorrhaged, lost lots of blood, and they put him in ICU without even sewing him up.

A day later, they took a biopsy and the day after that (the day we actually took possession of our new family home and were moving all our belongings), they told us what they had found. I remember like it was yesterday. There we sat, Mr. Handsome, his momma, and I, and the oncologist and surgeon walked in, and the surgeon said, with the largest Cheshire cat grin on his face that I will ever see on someone who is about to give you a death sentence, "Well, we know what is wrong with your son. He's got cancer."

I collapsed, of course. But the first thing out of my mouth (and god only knows why) was, "But how will I ever go back to work?!?" We all collapsed into a heap of tears, of blackness the depth of the universe, and it was then that our lives all changed. And the surgeon kept smiling, because he finally KNEW WHAT WAS WRONG WITH MY CHILD, regardless of the fact that it was CANCER, and MY BABY HAD IT.

It was Stage 3 Neuroblastoma, and is usually pretty deadly because usually it is not caught early enough. It's also a "smart" cancer that often outsmarts the chemotherapy drugs out there. It also grows little fingers, like an octopus, and wraps itself around organs and spines and things, choking the life out of them.

I will write more about our trials and tribulations with our son and cancer, but suffice it here to say that early on, we were all in a state of complete and utter shock, days melding into nights back into days, trying to manage Dennis' pain, his vomiting, his healing. He started chemo soon after that first surgery, and the plan was that after a couple more chemos (every 3 weeks), he was to have the second surgery, which ended up happening on Hallowe'en 1998. Scared the living crap out of me.

The second surgery, as it happens, was nowhere near as dangerous as the first, but it also ended up not being of much use. The surgeon said he couldn't find any tumour at all, but we all knew the poor little kid still had tons in there because all his scans showed us so. Of course, as he was in surgery that fateful Hallowe'en day, I was beyond scared. I was crapping my pants. I could barely stand, let alone brush my hair or teeth, or even care if I was dressed or entirely nude as I traipsed through the hospital corridors, hanging on to my husband's arm for dear life. All I could imagine was a repeat of the July surgery, and I was sure we were going to lose our little guy for real this time.

As it happens, everything is relative. Although yes, my baby boy just had surgery for cancer, and we had almost lost him before, and we might still lose him, this Hallowe'en turned out to be a wonderful, happy day in the end, because not only did my son not lose as much blood, he came out in fine condition, and I was able to hold him, nurse him, and be with him almost immediately, which is all I could ever hope for.

Comments

The Mom said…
I'm sorry for your baby's, and your pain. You are a brace woman. I cannot imagine.

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