Now that everyone has been under the same roof for a week, the tumultuous days in early July almost feel like a surreal dream. Each day that passes lessens the feeling of panic I felt on June 29* when we first learned of MH’s tumor. When I think back on it, I can see myself reacting to the news as if I were floating overhead and eavesdropping in that pediatric waiting room. I think I did such an effective job of shutting down my fragile core so quickly, I do not and cannot recall the actual emotions I felt during that dark time. Time stood still and then it sped up. And now it’s in the past. Well, mostly.
We got the highly anticipated call today from our oncologist, Dr. Bryant. She brought good news as the pathology report from the Children’s Oncology Group finally arrived. As we had hoped, Mary Hazel’s tumor was classified as Stage 1 Low Risk! We have the piece of paper to prove it. It is official. The protocol for this diagnosis is to monitor (via CT Scan) every three months for a year and then every six months for another year. Whereas I am relieved to not have to endure chemotherapy alongside that sweet baby, I am not looking forward to force-feeding her that acidic contrast dye and watching her get punctured with IVs several times a year. When I start dreading those episodes, I clearly hear the desperate voice of several weeks ago in my head that screamed and pleaded, “I will go through Hell and back as long as I still have my little girl when it’s over.” I can certainly do this. I asked the doctor how and where the cancer can recur since we removed her whole kidney (and adrenal glands and lymph nodes, etc), and she said the cancer cells can be microscopic and travel without our knowledge at this point. We will watch, vigilantly, to ensure our girl stays healthy. The good news is that even if there is a recurrence, the cancer is still considered highly treatable and the prognosis remains positive. All good stuff.
And even though I do not remember many specifics about that first day at the hospital, Dad and I can now joke about my reaction when I first told him the scary news. When I sobbed, “Daddy, she has cancer,” he squeezed me tight to his chest and we rocked back and forth. A few seconds later, I said, “Dad…I can’t breathe.” He nodded, “I know, I know,” and kept squeezing and rocking. “No, Dad, I really can’t breathe. You’re going to have to let go now.” It was completely inappropriate at the time to even consider smiling, but looking back now, it really was pretty funny. So glad we are all breathing deeply again.
* On my way up the driveway after a run yesterday, I looked up and happen to notice the license plate on the car our friends so graciously loaned to Russell on the day of MH’s surgery. The numbers read 629.