This morning, a woman with a gentle face popped her head around our door and asked if I was LW's mom. When I said yes, she said that she has a daughter just LW's age and they just got here.
Really just got here. Her daughter gets a biopsy today. It sounds like Wilms' Tumor, bilateral, like LW's was at first diagnosis.
This mom is holding it together -- not like me, I was just a puddle when we first came. But I recognized her eyes, because there were my eyes back then. They are filled with fear. They show that her head is swimming, she is overwhelmed.
We met up in the playroom and as our girls played, we talked. I gave her bits and pieces of information. I know she'll remember little of it, but she gave me her email address. I told her about setting up a caringbridge site, I told her that the McDonald's here is open til 3 am.
And I told her, "You will get through this."
She works at the post office, she doesn't know if she'll need to quit her job. They don't live in the city, they're in a small town near here.
She is at the beginning. You know how on tv, or in movies, something happens and a person goes hurtling back in time? That's actually what it feels like. Huh. Sitting there, it was as if a big whoosh swept me back to that first of many hospital rooms. I didn't even know we were on the oncology floor. The Husband knew and was furious. She hadn't even been formally diagnosed.
How innocent, how raw we were.
I was glad that I was here to talk to this mother. Glad we exchanged info so I can "mentor" her through this world. I wanted to say, "This world, it's not as bad as you think." In some ways, that's true. Going to clinic, even coming to the hospital, becomes normal. And in other ways, it is far, far worse than she yet knows.
I was thinking about initial diagnosis versus relapse-diagnosis the other day. Initial diagnosis is a more dramatic change. In 24 hours, not only does your life change, YOU change. You are now a cancer parent. And your child changes. She's still your funny baby, but she is also now a cancer kid. You can run, you can hide, but you can't escape. You will never be the same. Your innocence is ripped away.
In some ways, though, relapse diagnosis was more painful. Initial diagnosis was heartrending, but there was a certain level of protection provided by shock and provided by ignorance.
Relapse diagnosis was the most excruciating pain I've ever experienced. Because there was absolutely no numbness. No swirling cloud of being overwhelmed. This time, I knew. I knew what it meant, I knew the world. I remember sitting on the cold floor of the hospital bathroom, holding two towels up to my face and screaming into them.
I didn't know how I was going to survive the night.
But the morning came. Joy did not come on that morning, but somehow, when the sun rose, it gave me the ability to deal with it all. I dried my eyes, did my research, listened to doctors, made some calls.
And now ... the grainy edges of the past recede and I am back here, in our hospital room. LW is taking a nap, dressed in her pumpkin costume. Tonight, she'll get her last chemo treatment.
Her Last Chemo Treatment. Oh, God, please God please God. Please, may this really, truly be the last.
Tomorrow, we'll finish flushing the liquids, get the neulasta shot and go home, hopefully in time to go trick or treating.
It breaks my heart that as we leave, another will take our place.