Friday, March 1, 2013
Here are some of the thoughts that I have had so far.
Monday night (the night before the diagnosis), I was needing to study for my exams and for the next day's surgical cases. For a quick Family Home Evening (FHE) I decided to talk about what we had spoken about in church the day before: how adversity strengthens us. I even used the example of my cousin and her son who has lymphoma and the blessings we heard their family receive along the way as they work through a very hard road... (Go TEAM LINX! We are here with you buddy!)
We finished FHE and I needed to go study. I hadn't been studying long when I found myself drawn out to the front room where I saw Ainsley and Jenny snuggling. Ainsley had taken a long afternoon nap, and would not be sleeping any time soon. She and Jenny were watching a movie and Ainsley asked me to snuggle her. I did (glad I didn't pass that up for studying) and we snuggled for an hour or more. While holding her I felt quite a few swollen lymph nodes in her neck and arm pits, and Jenny and I reviewed the many bruises on her back, arms, and legs. It seemed like more were showing up out of no where. We were anxious to hear the results of the labs the next day...
The next morning I was just about to go back to surgery for a 7:30 case when Jenny called me in tears. "They think it's leukemia...and we need to take her straight to the children's hospital." I'm grateful to a great residency program that allowed me to leave immediately. Our pediatrician called me while I was driving home and discussed it with me. The rain was pouring inside and out of my car. I did not enjoy making the tear-filled call to family members and thank Mom, Dad, Shari, and Aunt Lori for helping me not have to make it over and over. We were quickly overwhelmed (in a good way) with love and support in texts, calls, and emails. I am grateful to Dr McDowell for telling us on the phone what he knew and getting things rolling immediately. If he hadn't told us what he knew it would have been between 6 and 8 hours before we would have otherwise heard the news, and that was with things going smoothly once we got to the hospital. I can't imagine how we would have felt if he had only told us that the labs were off and we needed to go to the Children's Hospital. He gave us enough information to allow us to process and be ready for the whirl-wind that would come once we were at the hospital. He had also prepared everything so we could go straight and get checked in, rather than go through the emergency room. He knew the admitting pediatric oncologist's name and had all the arrangements. Sometimes bad news is best delivered over the phone...
Once we got to the hospital, we were quickly reminded that cancer chose the wrong girl to pick on. If you've met Ainsley, you know that she will go nose to nose with anyone if she doesn't like something. Talk about a fighting spirit ;-) She quickly became frustrated with being at the hospital and not at home. She repeatedly yelled "I told you not to bring me here Daddy, and I told you not to let them give me a shot! I just want to go home! I wish we had never come here!" Painful. She carried on that way for about an hour and a half after the IV was in as she had to get used to it being taped to her arm and the brace they placed around it. She finally collapsed, exhausted, into my arms and slept for about 2 hours. She must have had sweet angels of loved-ones past helping her out because since then she has been able to tolerate the IV without screaming at Dad. I started to catch a glimpse of just how sick my little girl is when the first attempt at an IV resulted in a huge hematoma in her hand because of her low platelets (which typically help stop bleeding). Her platelets had dropped clear to 13K, which normal is between 100K and 300K. I shuttered to think of the implications. I had seen my patients sick like that, but never imagined it being my own daughter.
My dear friend, and fellow resident, Rusty came to visit within hours of admission. He brought Pei Wei and a beautiful edition of the Secret Garden for us to read while we are here. We are so grateful, neither Jenny nor I had even thought of eating to that point. Soon after that, the pediatrician that discovered the problem, Dr. McDowell, came to visit. Jenny went to get the girls and bring them down to visit (more on that later). Another fellow resident, Rob, brought us dinner and chatted. Andrea and Mark (also resident friends) stopped by and have offered countless hours of support. Andrea is a Pediatric resident and was one of the first faces we saw in the hospital. What a relief that was to see a familiar face. We are at the children's hospital, which is not the hospital I usually work at, but is one that some of the other residency programs at my hospital go to. Always nice to have familiar faces.
Since the phone call that morning, the girls knew only that we had been crying, that Ainsley was sick and needed to go to the hospital for a few days for some medicine, and that she had some bruises. I can only imagine what was going through their teacher's minds as they related that info... Meili had overheard the word 'Leukemia' but was not sure what that was. Their principal, school counselor, and teachers were made aware of what was going on soon after the girls arrived to school; and that the girls only knew the above info. They were tremendous in helping the girls through that day.
Sara picked up the girls from school and played with them for a few hours until Jenny could get home to them and bring them back to the hospital to discuss the details and visit with Ainsley. When we told them that Ainsley's blood was sick with a cancer called Leukemia, I watched Meili's chest and stomach react like she'd been punched. There were lots of tears, hugs, and snuggles. The girls asked a lot of questions and we did our best to answer them. Rhyan (7 yrs old) asked "so is there a good chance that she will get better?" We told her YES! We also talked about some of the things the Team here had suggested we address with the kids: 1) Ainsley's cancer is not contageous, and 2) that no one could have caused it by being mean to or mad at Ainsley and that no one did anything wrong to make her sick. Both of these are common questions that siblings often have. They might worry that they caused it by being mad at or having fought with their sibling.
Soon after that, Trevor and Andy stopped by to help me give a Priesthood blessing to Ainsley. In Ainsley's blessing, she was reminded that "she is the glue that holds our family together," a blessing she had been given in her baby blessing almost 4 years ago. She had also been blessed in the baby blessing to know that the Plan of Salvation (the Lord's plan for the happiness of His children)would be very real to her throughout her life, and that was echoed in this blessing. Her children and grandchildren were mentioned, and how her experiences now will bless many generations to know the love of God for each of his children. Jenny and I were also given blessings and were comforted. We had a family prayer together and then I took the older girls home and Jenny and Hudson stayed with Ainsley. Throughout the day, you would not believe what a great boy Hudson was. We never dreamed that at two months old, he'd be joining us in the Pediatric Hospital while Ainsley got chemotherapy for Leukemia. As I write that, I'm shocked...
On Sunday (two days before the phone call), Jenny and I had been discussing how we were finally getting things back to normal. Getting Hudson here was a long, hard, road. Jenny was very sick throughout the pregnancy, with severe vomiting, dehydration, kidney stones, sinusitis, and migraine headaches. My residency was residency, always out of time, money, and sleep ;-) We honestly have felt so overwhelmed for the past 10 or so months that we were anxiously awaiting Hudson's arrival and getting life back to normal so we could recover from the crazy year we just had. Then the phone call 2 days later. Little did we know that the crazy year we just had was the warm-up for the time ahead. I guess before you run a marathon, you work your way up by running longer and longer distances to prepare yourself. I am reminded of my favorite Chinese phrase, one that has helped me immensely throughout my life...zhen jin bu pa huo lian (Real gold doesn't fear the refiner's fire). The first movie Jenny and I saw when we were dating was The Emporer's New Groove. After a series of mishaps and death-defying events that seemed insurmountable, the two main characters find themselves floating along on a smooth river. Pacha quickly sees the next obstacle...a huge waterfall. Kusko cannot see it from where he is and only hears Pacha say "uh oh." Kusko says "let me guess, a huge waterfall?" Yes. "Sharp rocks at the bottom?" Most likely. "Bring it on!" You may have to see the movie to get it, but we have laughed at that phrase and it has helped us throughout our marriage and know that these moments will also pass. Our Father in Heaven knows what we face each day and has already shown us that He will help make our burdens feel light. He also shows us that what we thought was a burden before was probably nothing compared to what we are capable of handling when we put our faith and trust in Him.
Posted by Jenny at 7:17 AM