Survivor

It’s already been a week since I rocked my little baby in the hospital, watching her drift in and out of consciousness as she recovered from the anesthesia. I never suspected how completely and fully she would bounce back after a radical nephrectomy in just seven short days. And I dared not hope that her oncologist would have all but called her “cured” when her pathology report came back earlier this week. A miracle? I’m not sure. That word gets thrown around a lot. All I know is that her recovery has been a miraculous experience to me and I cannot think of a more appropriate word to describe it. Mary Hazel is now a cancer survivor.

I’ve been thinking about that phrase a lot this week. Cancer Survivor. It is true that she did have cancer and now she does not. But, it is also true that her battle with cancer was rather short compared to some. (Short, but plenty intense, for this mama.) Even though we were only aware of her condition for two weeks, she apparently had this tumor since before she was born. So, really, she’s had cancer as long as we’ve known her. That’s a strange thought to get my head wrapped around. I’m very thankful that we discovered the cancer, treated the cancer, and are recovering from cancer within a month’s time. But I have to confess, it felt kind of strange at first to think of Mary Hazel as a cancer survivor. For the greater part of her life, we did not even know she was sick. She never displayed a single symptom or complained of being uncomfortable. We neither spent considerable amounts of time in and out of doctors’ offices nor suffered long through the diagnosis phase. We were lucky to find the tumor quickly, blessed to receive a positive prognosis, and relieved the surgery was a success. So can one really be called a survivor when one has not overly suffered?

I was chatting with a friend of mine from work today. His wife first battled the disease over ten years ago and won her fight against breast cancer. Last year she was diagnosed with myeloma and has been in and out of treatment since. She is getting ready for her second stem cell transplant later this month. She’s endured hours of chemo, is unable to work on a regular basis, and struggles daily to get out of the bed. When she emerges victorious from this round of cancer, she will indeed be a survivor. Is it fair to compare what we’ve been through with what some families go through? Is it appropriate to even have such thoughts? I don’t want to take a single thing away from our brave baby warrior who really was a fearless trooper in the hospital and has complained exactly zero times despite the discomfort of it all. She is my tiny superhero. It seems to me, however, there is a cancer spectrum. People who receive the scary news find themselves somewhere on it. Some have an easier time than others. Some struggle for years. And some, like Mary Hazel, are fortunate enough to sail through with flying colors. I am reminded again of the Beads of Courage and why the program is so good. Mary Hazel has her necklace with about twenty colorful beads that tell her cancer story. Her fellow oncology ward mates had strings of beads several feet long that told of their longer and more burdensome trials. They may all be cancer survivors one day but will have taken different paths to get there. I feel like we sprinted at an anaerobic pace from start to finish. My friend’s wife is more like an Olympic marathoner, pacing herself for the longer distance. None of it is easy. When I first heard the term ‘survivor’ in reference to my own little girl, my initial thought was, “But she really didn’t suffer that long.” Then I realize with frightening clarity that she owns and deserves the title because her outcome could just as easily have taken a different turn. What if we had not gone to the doctor for her annual well check? What if the pediatrician had not detected the tumor? What if the tumor had already metastasized? Any of these events could have happened and our lives would have never been the same. The fact is that Mary Hazel is a cancer survivor and I am thankful every minute of every day.

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7 thoughts on “Survivor

  1. Great news and what an answer to prayer. Glad your family is back together. My hope for you is that every moment lived from now on will be joyful. Knowing that life is full of surprises, at least you know how to deal with the bad ones. I’m happy to have been part of your prayer team. Enjoy it all you can. love to your familyy and sweet MH.

  2. It is such a blessing to read your testimony… Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. Praise God for Mary Hazel’s healing… How can one join the Beads of Courage program? Thanks in advance and God bless you and your family always!

  3. Hey Erin – so happy for you and your family that Mary Hazel has come through with flying colors! I can’t imagine how scary all of that must have been. I loved your post about just holding your daughter after it was over. I remember the first time I finally got to hold Charlie in the NICU – I sat there long enough for my arms to fall asleep and for my car to get ticketed, but it was worth it! So I can imagine how you must have felt. Anyway, I’m glad you’re done with that and I hope it’s all good news going forward!

    • Marie, it is so good to hear from you. Sorry that your Charlie went through such a struggle in the beginning, but it sounds like you are all one happy family now. Yay for happy!

  4. Ever cancer patient, and caretaker of a cancer patient, is rejoicing for the quick treatment and the fact that Mary Hazel is now a survivor. We all know how devastating the news of a cancer diagnosis can be, especially in a child. To know that her treatment was able to be minimized is absolutely wonderful news! It gives me hope that science is taking a leap forward and kicking cancer’s @#@#@#. No child should have to experience all that. I have never even met you but when I read your news I had a tear or two in my eyes, they were tears of joy for your family.
    Miller’s Nana
    Kim Dimond

    • Kim, thanks so much for all your encouragement this past month. The kindness of friends and strangers alike have carried us through this scary time. I’ve really appreciated all the information you have shared with me from your own personal experience and journey. Many heartfelt thanks to you and your family.

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