Below is my essay reading from Listen To Your Mother Show Spokane 2011.
One year. One year ago, today, Gregory, age 3, was diagnosed with cancer.
Carrying him in my arms, we made the walk, down the longest hallway I’ve ever walked, from our room in peds intermediate to the procedure room. I placed his weak and sick little body on the gurney and stood back and watched. Watched as a team of staff hooked him up to a plethora of strange things.
I stood silently as the anesthesiologist began Gregory’s sedation.
I stood silently and watched, as they flipped his little body over. Pointing his hip to the ceiling. Baring his backside for all to see. Prepping the area with antiseptic.
I stood there silently.
I clutched Gregory’s blanket, watching in horror.
The curtains were drawn and I was saved from seeing the actual Bone Marrow Aspirate. I remember reaching out for Larry’s hand. I remember silent tears gathering in the corners of my eyes. Shocked that THIS is where I was. Terrified.
This was Wednesday morning and I had been with Gregory, ever since he was admitted on Monday. The staff had told me that if his marrow showed no signs of leukemia, he would remain in peds intermediate, until they figured out what was wrong with Gregory. If his marrow did prove to be leukemic, he would be immediately moved to the Pediatric Oncology Unit.
The Bone Marrow Aspirate didn’t take more than ten minutes to complete.
After a flurry of activity myself, Daddy, my Mom and Gregory were left alone with the the nurse who was monitoring him. We stood around him, like a vigil. We had two hours of nervous and stilted conversation.
Constantly watching the monitors, as Gregory slept off the sedation.
I wanted nothing more, than to climb upon that gurney and snuggle him out of it. They wanted his airway free, so I had to stand at his side, hold his hand, grip his leg, rub his back, stroke his hair. Gaze at his precious face.
Towards the end of our waiting, Larry needed quarters to feed the meter. He was out of change and I knew I had plenty in my wallet. I took off, again, down that long hallway towards our room. As I approached, I noticed movement inside.
A cart parked halfway in, halfway out of the room.
I came to a screeching halt at the doorway and froze. Unable to catch my breath. Lights, blinking in my peripheral vision. My heart pounding so hard in my ears, I was sure you could have heard it had you been standing near me.
The bed was elevated and stripped to it’s rubber covered mattress. There was a staff member scrubbing the room. Our belongings, that I had neatly placed at the end of the couch? Gone. Not an item in sight.
At that moment……..
I don’t recall Dr. Reynolds’ exact words, something close is “We’ve got a long road.”
Suffocating, hiccupping, stifling, chest-searing sobs.
Trying to breath and keep my cool.
Wanting to unleash this beast that is now lodged, permanently in my solar plexus.
Compressing my lungs.
Hair loss? Yes.
Gregory stirred more and more. He was stable enough to move. I gathered his little self and we proceeded through the maze that led to the Pediatric Oncology Unit.
Numb, in shock and exhausted, we were escorted to purple room 308, right in front of the nurses station.
All of our belongings were there. The bed was turned down and covered with a new, soft fleece blanket. Our first “gift” from the world of Childhood Cancer.
Next to the bed was a huge, wing backed recliner. I clung to Gregory and sat down in it. Not wanting to release him.
The words resonating through my brain, “Your child has cancer.”