Topic: Cancer Sucks
One of the 'cancer moms' I've gotten to know a little bit is facing what must be the most terrifying possibility imaginable. Her precious son Nathan (4 years old), who has battled his way to NED (no evidence of disease) status against stage IV neuroblastoma, will have an MRI tomorrow to see whether or not he has relapsed. This little boy just finished treatment a couple of months ago and this family was just settling into a somewhat normal life.
Of course, normal life for a pediatric oncology patient is not normal life for a child who has never faced cancer. It's still filled with frequent checkups, blood and urine analyses and scans. Sometimes it includes getting fitted for hearing aids because the toxic chemicals that have been pumped into these tiny bodies can destroy their hearing. And it's not normal for the parents, whose hearts race and plummet every time their child gets a fever or begins to limp...as Nathan did a few days ago.
What makes the prospect of facing relapse so hideous is that, as a parent, we know now. We know what the chemo is going to do to our child's body. We know just how horribly our lives will be turned upside down. How our other children will suffer due to our absence. But most of all, for parents of a child diagnosed with neuroblastoma, we know that a relapse is a virtual death sentence. Sure, there are drugs that can beat it back into submission (not remission) for a little while. There are experimental treatments available that might buy us some time. But the bottom line is that a child who relapses with NB will die.
How cruel it is to have fought so bravely against this monster - to have hope that maybe your child will be one of the lucky ones who ultimately wins the war - only to be blindsided just when things seem to be going so well.
I watched The Incredibles yesterday. The villan in the movie creates a robotic machine that is intent on destroying its enemy. And what makes it so deadly is that it learns from the mistakes it makes. It learns from its enemy's successes and takes advantage of them in the next battle. So what the hero does to defeat it the first time, won't work the next time. This is neuroblastoma. The drugs that defeated it the first time won't work as well in the next battle. All you can do is keep throwing new things at it to keep it at bay a little longer. You hope and pray that something you throw at it strikes a lethal blow and kills it for good.
My heart is breaking for this family. I can well imagine their terror. They've already accepted in their hearts that their son has relapsed. If by some miracle, they hear otherwise tomorrow, well - they'll be more elated than I can possibly imagine. I really pray they'll get their miracle.