On facebook I have seen a lot of postings of remembrance to where someone was and what they were doing on this date when tragedy hit The World Trade Center, The Pentagon, and the brave individuals that helped take down the plane in Pennsylvania saving so many more lives. It is touching and I can remember back to what I was doing at the time and what I did that entire day as I sat and watched everything unfold. However, five years ago we had our own personal brush with potential tragedy that makes this day suck that much more.
I’m sure most of you, who actually read this, already know our story, but in order to make my head stop and hope to slow the emotions today I need to share again. It will be a long and most likely blabbering story, but it is something I must do.
Five years ago today we took Mason for his four year check up and we brought Cutler along because he had been congested for about two months leading up to this day. So, we figured while we were in the doctor’s office we should ask about the red spots that were starting to show on Cutler’s stomach and his head. The amazing Dr. Okamor looked at it and considered his two months of a “cold” and thought we should go see a hematologist and happened to get us an appointment that day. So off we went and it was on this day, when I stepped off the elevator, that I discovered that a hematologist was also an oncologist.
After Dr. Goldman looked Cutler over and consulted with his partners he thought it was just a skin condition, but wanted to take a blood test to be safe. Once the blood was drawn he gave us a name of a pediatric oncologist and we figured we were good to go. UNTIL, we got the phone call five minutes from the house that we needed to return to the hospital immediately, but they wouldn’t tell us what was wrong over the phone. Fortunately, as we turned around and headed back, Dr Okamor called and we convinced her to tell us what was going on and she told us they believed he had Leukemia. It was a punch to the stomach like I had never felt before and something I would wish upon no one.
The next day the official diagnosis was that Cutler had a very rare form of Acute Myeloid Leukemia. He started chemo immediately and was in remission after his second round, but we continued on with another round to prepare for his stem cell transplant via unrelated cord blood. December marks fives years since the transplant and I am happy to say that Cutler leads a normal life. However, like the terrorist attacks in 2001, this attack in 2009 still rings strong in my head on this day.
- The feeling of fright when I saw the Texas Oncology sign as I stepped off the elevator when I didn’t know about blood cancers
- The fight to not panic after the call that told us to return to the hospital immediately
- The punch that left me breathless while driving back to the hospital when Dr. Okamor informed us they thought it was Leukemia
- The comfort of the nurses and staff upon our arrival and throughout our six month stay
- The confidence and patience the doctors exuded when answering questions about the treatment plan, even for the 25th time
- The effort required to “stay strong” in front of my wife
- The feeling of helplessness as I left my six month old baby and my wife at the hospital so that I could get Mason and take him to get pizza and play games as we had promised
- The total loss of emotions as I got to my car
- The need to pull over two blocks away from the hospital so that I could calm down enough to keep driving
- The inability to answer my mom’s question as to should she come down
- The relief when she just told me she was on her way
- The torrential down pour that only added to the blur caused by my tears
- The support from my great friends that helped me get our other car home and helped shield Mason the next day so he could attend his very first soccer practice
- Running through the downpour while Mason and I both got drenched trying to get into Amazing Jake’s for marginal pizza and games
- Trying my best to not let Mason know how serious things were with Cutler to help keep his simple four year old life care free
- Trying to choke down a piece of that marginal pizza while Mason put away more than enough for the both of us
- Putting Mason to bed and then doing one of the worst things someone in that situation could do, research on the internet
- The feeling of utter despair as I read the mortality rate for AML
- The comforting call from my CEO telling me to get off the internet and that she didn’t want to see me working until I was ready
- My awesome neighbor stopping by with an ambien so I could try to sleep
- Finally letting the ambien work so that I could get enough rest to start the fight for my baby’s life the next morning