I’ve procrastinated with this blog post because I don’t know what to say, and I don’t know what to feel; and frankly, if I don’t type out the words, then it doesn’t feel real. At least, that’s what I’ve been telling myself since Thursday.
As most of you already know, our son Gabe was sick over Christmas. He had a cough, fever, and runny nose. The cough continued to get worse, so I took him to his pediatrician’s office, and found out that he was sick with pneumonia. Before the doctor left the room, she asked me if I thought Gabe looked pale. I said yes, and she said she thought he did too and wanted to check his blood levels. She came back with the results and they were scary. All of his levels were abnormal. Disturbingly abnormal. She sent us to the hospital lab where they tested Gabriel again. Same results. Now I was worried, because she mentioned being hospitalized if the results came back low again.
They did not know what was wrong, it could have been thrown out of whack because of the viral pneumonia, or it could be cancerous. The longer I sat in the office, the more my stomach churned. St. Jude’s was called, and before I could even process what was going on, we are getting Gabe prepped with an IV right in the office, and the ambulance was getting ready to take us to Memphis. Jacob rushed from work to follow behind the ambulance. Texts were sent out to immediate family and close friends. Fear worked its way in, and I was desperately trying to keep it together. We knew Gabe would need a blood transfusion, so now we were at St. Jude’s, around 9 o’clock at night, with a team of doctors already assembled to assess Gabe.
There’s nothing more terrifying than a panel of doctors bringing you test results. They explained why they were worried, about white blood cell counts, hemoglobin, and how platelet’s work, explained it could be something else, or that it could be Leukemia.
They took blood, the doctor saying that she wanted to look at his blood herself.
My sister, Allie, was already at the hospital and set with us while we waited. We prayed, we cried, we prayed some more, and then the doctors were back. Now they were very concerned. She saw Leukemia cells in Gabriel’s blood. They left, and I immediately went into the bathroom and threw up—well—dry heaved. I could not eat anything that day, so I had zilch in my stomach.
They gave him a blood transfusion, so his levels would be safe for surgery. He needed a line put in for the IV, bone marrow test, and a spinal tap so they could confirm what type of Leukemia Gabe had and whether or not the cancer was in his spine and around his brain.
That first night and first full day is a complete blur. I walked around in a haze. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t feel, and for the first time in my life, I could say that I was numb. Truly numb. I could feel myself drawing inward, burying all my emotion inside. My sister had to remind things, normal things that I should have remembered. She told me drink water and I did, she told me eat and I tried, but I mainly just pushed the food around, but I don’t think that I fooled her or Jacob. She told me to breathe, and to pray. She was my brain, and Jacob was my rock.
By the time of his surgery, a lot of our family and friends were here. Daniel and Bella were at home with Jacob’s mom. We still hadn’t told them the extent of the news; we wanted to do that in person. That night, Gabe started Chemo, and he rested most of the evening and the night.
Day 2 (Dec 31st)
Gabe woke up cranky, did not want to swallow his meds, and spent most of the day in bed. He had a few moments when he was happy, and my cousin, Chastity, brought Daniel and Bella up here to see us. We had a Child Specialist come in and help up explain to them what was going on with Gabe. My family and friends blessed us with running to the store and purchasing items that we would need. We came straight to the hospital from the pediatrician’s office, so we had nothing with us.
Several people went home that evening, and when Gabe feel asleep that night, I was no longer numb, but angry. Angry that this was happening to my baby, that our whole world was turned completely upside down and there wasn’t anything that I could do about it. So many un-answered questions that Jacob and I are facing. What’s going to happen to my store? How are we going to balance the kids coming to see us? What about Jacob’s work? And then the whole other realties that once Gabe goes through the induction phase of his treatment, we will no longer be able to do all the things that we are used to do. We will have to super careful where he goes, and who we are around. His little body will be so susceptible to illness, so we can’t be around anyone that is sick. So many unknowns that we don’t quite understand just yet.
I’ve stayed off of social media for several reasons. Partly because I wasn’t ready to share what was happening, and mostly because, while everyone else was posting about the New Year, and other things going on in their lives, I was sitting in the dark, watching my sick baby fighting. My whole world had been completely turned upside down, shaken up, and left for us to try to make sense of the pieces, and it wasn’t fair. None of this is fair. My worst nightmare, the one thing that I always pray against, was happening. One my children was sick with cancer. And I can’t do anything else to stop it. I’m not going to sugar coat this for you. I was in a dark place on New Year’s Eve.
Day 3: (Jan 1st 2017)
Gabe slept really well that night. He definitely needed the rest after his first Chemo treatment. His heart rate did drop that night, and an EKG was ordered. His heart checked out fine. The steroids can lower your heart rate, so we are now just monitoring it. I was a bundle of nerves. We were waiting to see what category Gabe would fall under, whether he was in a “bad zone”, “good zone” or “great zone”. We were also waiting for the spinal tap results, to see if the cells were in his spine. We received great news, that Gabe was responding well to the treatment, we were in the “good zone” and there weren’t any cells around his spine, or around his brain! Thank you Lord! For the first time in three days, I was finally able to breathe!
I was finally able to tell everyone what was going on, and by that evening, the amount of prayers, texts, phone calls, and donations was so overwhelming! We are so grateful for everyone’s support. I can’t tell you how much this means to us. We can feel God moving.
Day 4 (Jan 2nd)
Today was another rest day. Gabe spent most of the morning playing with Daniel and Bella before they had to go home, and we have spent the day training on how to give Gabe his medicines through his pic line once we leave the hospital, and into our housing here on campus.
We are also learning everything we can about Gabe’s Leukemia and how our lives will have to adapt once we leave here. Gabe has ALL Leukemia. ALL is a cancer of infection-fighting white blood cells called lymphocytes. These and other blood cells are made in the bone marrow. With ALL, these crowd out the normal blood cells and if gone untreated, it can cause death from anemia, infection, or bleeding. Gabe’s hemoglobin at the doctor’s office was 4, normal hemoglobin is 14! That was why he was so pale. If the doctor did not think to order the blood test than we would not have known about this until more drastic symptoms came out. God used the pneumonia, and our doctor to find this. The success rate with ALL is really good. 7 to 8 out of every 10 children with ALL can have a long term remission. Gabe’s treatment will be in three parts, and can last up to three years. We have three phases of his treatment: Induction (6-8 weeks), Consolidation (8 weeks), and Continuation (120 weeks).
I can’t begin to describe the stages of emotions that I have been through: the worry the first night here, the hope that it wouldn’t be cancer, the disbelief and devastation when it was, the anger trying to accept it, and now the determination to get through this and get Gabe cured. I know that God has a plan, even when I don’t understand it. I know that we have an army of support and love. I know it’s going to be a battle and a long road, but God’s got this!