Of all the homecomings I have ever been a part of, this has to be the sweetest. We got to bring our baby girl home today from the Oncology / Hematology ward with no port, no immediate treatment plans, and (most amazingly) no cancer. I still cannot believe it. A week ago, I feared the worst. My world was upside down. I cried as often I drew a breath. Now she’s home, scooting around with her big brother and sister and smiling at the world.
Twenty four hours ago, Mary Hazel was being prescribed morphine through an IV drip and having a restless night. This morning she woke up perky, alert, and ready to get the heck out of Dodge. The surgeon came by on his rounds and said, “Take this girl home. She’s ready to go!” Aye, aye, Captain! A few minutes later, the nurse took out MH’s remaining IV and we started packing. Well, first we went for a long joy ride around the hospital in a very cool blue car. Mary Hazel belly laughed and waved to all who passed. “Hi! Hi!” We waved to the doctors, the other patients, the fish in the tank. Her enthusiasm for being out of her crib prison and untethered from her IV pole was apparent. As we made our rounds, I just kept shaking my head and thinking, “What a month!” Emotionally, I hit rock bottom and then sailed over the moon in less than fourteen days. As happy as I am about bringing my apparently cancer-free baby home from the hospital, I feel very sad for the children who did not get good news today. I met some amazing families, heard many courageous stories, saw kids of all ages enduring tests and procedures which nobody should ever have to. The little boy in the room next to ours is the same age as Charlie and Poppy. He has a blood cancer and has been in and out of the hospital for the last seven months. He’s on a new treatment that makes him extremely sick to his stomach. They had to admit him to keep him from dehydrating. His mother looked weary. She stayed up late every night sorting bills, making lists, and drinking strong coffee. I hope and I pray that little Will is the next sweet child who gets to go home. I hope that all the children I met get to go home. There is a program called Beads of Courage in which children with cancer participate as part of their therapy. They get a colorful bead for each milestone and event they experience during their journey. A sparkly star for surgery, a black bead for chemo, a red bead for “pokes”. Mary Hazel left with her name and twenty other beautiful beads laced on a necklace. I saw some kids with bead chains as long as jump ropes hanging from their IV stands. The beads are definitely a visual reminder of what these kids go through on a daily basis. As joyous as I was when we learned we could leave, I dared not speak of my enthusiasm in front of the others. It was a quiet privilege to walk out the door and hopefully never return for treatment. One of the nurses, who hugged me tight and shared a tear with me, said, “Mary Hazel is only the third child this year to leave without needing further treatment. You are so blessed.” Indeed we are. I like to think that my team helped. I know I might be jumping the gun just a little bit as we have not yet seen the full pathology report (still). We expect to get a phone call as soon as it is available. However, Dr. Abrams told me again and again that the chances of any remaining cancer was “extremely remote” and “unlikely”. His last words to us before he finished his rounds were, “You have the best outcome anyone in this situation could hope for.” That has to be good. It just has to be. I recall what my Aunt Peggy said to me right before the surgery last week, “Don’t you worry – Mary Hazel will always be a miracle baby.”
Tonight, before I crash into my own bed, I will pray for several things. Please, dear God, let that pathology report be free and clear. Also, please heal all those sweet children I met during our stay. Help their families find the strength to keep fighting another day, another week, another month. Everyone needs a team like Mary Hazel has. I plan to be on as many as I possibly can. Thanks, dear friends, for being with us on this unexpected journey. I sincerely cannot imagine traveling it alone.
Thanks to my co-workers Elaine and Joey for bringing lunch and treats! Mary Hazel enjoyed playing with you!