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.
So, I've been going to physio now for probably 4 months...4 looong and excruciatingly painful months, for something called a FROZEN SHOULDER.
What is a frozen shoulder, you ask? No, it didn't just get cold and stayed that way, although that might be preferable to what I've been going through. Frozen shoulder is a term used by the medical profession to state, "We don't know what's wrong with you, but we know it apparently hurts a lot, and you lose the ability to move your arm (hence the term "frozen"). All I know is, it has something to do with a shoulder capsule that shrinks. No one seems to know why this happens, but it does, and to me, it's happening again.
I actually had a frozen shoulder 4 years ago in my right shoulder, and endured a few months of physio and some cortisone shots. It all got better relatively quickly, with the wonderful help of my physiotherapist, Allen.
I knew something not-so-great was going on with my left shoulder early this year. Twinges of pain, discomfort and grinding. But I ignored it, thinking it's just my body, it's always falling apart, and hurting, and I am, after all, getting OLDER (my kids tend to remind me of this last fact daily). But then, in late spring, I noticed the pain had changed: from something that I could deal with and manage with pain meds (thank the lord for Tylenol!), to mind-numbing pain that would catch me totally off-guard and make me pass out. Yes, that's right. I would pass out from the pain. It really really hurt.
So, I went back to Allen, my physiotherapist god, for help. He is the best shoulder-fixer-upper I've ever met, and he's cute to boot.
I've been going for physio now since the summer, and in the meantime, I've also gone to a doctor for some cortisone shots. Yesterday's visit to the doctor ended up with him telling me I need to go in for some minor invasive procedure, whereby they inflate my shoulder joint with saline, inject some cortisone to boot, and that is supposed to "help things along". Yikes. I, of course, asked if it hurt. The doctor didn't say no. He just said, "There will be lots of freezing." Great. We all know what that really means. Now I just wait patiently for the appointment, which apparently can take quite a while. That's okay with me.
I guess I shouldn't complain though, really. In the grand scheme of things, this is nothing. I could be having an endoscopy. Wait, oh yeah, I'm supposed to have one of those as well...
As I thought, it was all about nothing much but having to deal with a newborn, and all the normal, regular frustrations that come with having a little wee baby in the house, and not being able to do as you please any longer because now the baby is the boss, too bad for mom.
Baby Oscar is precious, makes me want to have another one (don't think that will be happening as perimenopause has raised its ugly head quite fiercely), and really, a baby crying is part of the package. He cries because he's hungry (when aren't they), or tired, or has some tummy pain. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing at all.
And yet, things have fallen apart. Mr. Handsome's sister, Sally, can't handle it. She isn't getting enough sleep, hasn't had time to have a full bath in days, can't get online for any length of time, let alone answer the phone when it rings, and how dare this tiny little innocent baby play havoc with all that she once had??? And here she sits, with her amazing hubby, Gordon, who does everything -- and I mean EVERYTHING -- for the momma and the baby, INCLUDING staying up ALL NIGHT with Oscar so that Sally can get her much-needed sleep. He is a saint, one in a trillion, really. And I don't think he's doing a good thing, really, in the grand scheme of things.
Sally's momma -- Grandma -- was called last week when Sally discovered Gordon was leaving town to do some work for 4 days. Oh my god. Grandma now has been told she is to come down to stay with Sally so that Sally doesn't have to be alone with a baby who needs to be fed every 2 1/2 hours, and wakes up a lot.
Do I sound like I find all this normal and acceptable?
So exciting! Off to the big city of Toronto tomorrow morning to finally see the newest addition to the family!!! Little baby Oscar was born in September, and is our first nephew! He's the child of my hubby (Mr. Handsome's) sister.
Mixed feelings about this trip, really. Although I am extremely excited to be meeting the little bugger, I feel the whole giving-birth-and-having-a newborn-at-home routine has been blown totally out of proportion in this instance, and it is driving Mr. Handsome and me absolutely, positively CRAAAAAZY!!!!!!
First babies are a difficult adjustment. I'll be the first to admit it. Our first little bundle of joy took quite the toll on both Mr. Handsome and I, to say the least. Little M (aka Yoda in these early days) took over 30 hours to come into this world, and that's just the labour. Another 8 hours of pushing, and nothing doing. She finally arrived, coming extremely close to an emergency C-Section. Of course, I hemmorhaged afterward, and they couldn't stop the bleeding. It took me 6 months to recover, 6 months of no energy, uterine infections, mastitis, lots of trouble breastfeeding, guilt over not breastfeeding her as long as I wanted to, major postpartum depression and I could go on and on. I'm sure you get the picture.
Baby Oscar, however, has no such history, thank god. His delivery was pretty much simple and straightforward (as much as any labour and delivery can be), breastfeeding has been a smooth and relatively painless process, and mom is doing very well, beautiful as ever, albeit tired. Not only that, but they have had more friends and family helping out, staying over, holding the baby, walking the baby, letting the mom sleep, than ANYONE, and I mean ANYONE, I know. And the attention! Oh, the complaints, the problems, the lack of sleep. Oh my god, how will we ever get through this? It's so hard!!
Well, here it is, my very first attempt ever at blogging. I have decided to enter the World of Blog since, not only does it seem to be "the thing to do", but my friend (who shall be known as 'Pickerel' -- you know who you are) urged me, saying in no uncertain terms that blogging was FOR ME!!!! I was born to blog, apparently. So, here I am!
Bear with me as I try to figure all of this out.And be prepared for the Blog of Your Life!
I am a 46-year-old mom of two amazing children and wife to a wonderful and very patient man, and a lucky friend to many. I am a Realtor and a writer, but have also been a journalist, editor, and daycare provider. Not every day is a good day, but I sure try to keep smiling.