I lost it
With a month left of his high school career, my Boy Wonder was swamped with papers for several of his college classes. Unfortunately he had to skip out on a family outing to support my mini-me at a volleyball tournament. When we returned home from the day’s games, he informed us he had a lump on his leg that concerned him, and he had called the Ask-A-Nurse number for advice.
Insert screeching halt sound effects – Do what? You have a lump? You called Ask-A-Nurse? Since when do teenage boys call Ask-A-Nurse? Is my boy now a man? Do I have to change his pseudonym from Boy Wonder to my Superman?
After all those swirling thoughts calmed in my brain, we dissected the advice given by the voice on the other end of the line. He needed to get in as soon as possible. We made an appointment, not too worried because cysts have become a routine part of his story since the bus crash. I have lost count of the number of those that have had to be surgically removed. The one that required a delicate three hour procedure definitely hasn’t been forgotten.
Our meeting with our family doctor did not go at all how I had expected. After examination, he gave us four possibilities: a hematoma, a cyst, a benign fatty tumor, or a cancerous tumor. At that last one, I think I began having heart palpitations. Due to the size of the lump, he lowered another blow. My kids adore our family doctor, but his best advice was he was not the doctor we needed. A surgeon was required. I don’t care that my children have had over 25 surgeries in the last seven years. I turn to mush every time the “s” word is uttered. I am so tired of my children hurting.
The meeting with the surgeon came the day before the prom, and I was hoping that if a procedure was needed we could, at least, let him enjoy the final dance of his high school years. I never in a million years imagined what happened next. The doctor quickly ruled out the hematoma and the fatty tumor, and really didn’t think it was a cyst. He then went on to say that the lump was presenting as sarcoma.
The Boy Wonder was fast and furious taking notes on his phone so that he could do some more research later. Have I mentioned lately that he hopes to become a doctor? While he went into future physician mode, I wanted to ball up on the floor in the fetal position. I fought back the tears in my eyes and tried (very unsuccessfully) to be brave for my son.
Miraculously, the MRI machine was currently empty, and we jumped at the chance to get a diagnosis sooner rather than later. After about a half hour, the technician came out and asked if I was “the mom”. She then explained how the radiologist didn’t like the images and had asked for a dye injection. She assured me that the procedure would take only fifteen more minutes. Are you kidding me, lady? I would wait until kingdom come if needed for my son.
Fifteen minutes it was not. Forty-five minutes later, he emerged famished and eager to get back to school. We got into the car, and my steely resolve vanished rapidly. I tried to ask if he was okay, when he noticed the tears in my eyes.
All I could get out was “we’ve come so far”. I didn’t have to say anything more. He knew what I meant. He was weeks away from graduating from high school and clearly more than ready to spread his wings to soar. A diagnosis of cancer would change all that. Not to mention the surgeon’s words echoing in my head, “if it is sarcoma, then we wouldn’t be able to operate in that location”. Oh sweet Jesus, please let this cup pass our family. I lost it.
My incredible son looked me in the eyes and these are the words he said . . .
Oh momma, don’t cry. I don’t think it is sarcoma. I just don’t feel it is. Mom, I get it. You are worried, but here is what I know: there isn’t a challenge I have met in life that I couldn’t handle.
Although I was momentarily reassured, my thoughts kept running away from me again. When did he grow up? When did he stop being my little boy and become a man ready to make more of a difference in this world than he already has? When did he become the comforter?
The next few days were agonizing. We told only a handful of friends and asked them to pray. We plastered smiles on our faces, and we pressed on. We pretended that our insides weren’t melting to goo, our crisis survival skills weren’t kicking into high gear, and our thoughts weren’t questioning if we could endure another blow. Lots of prayers were sent heavenward. Memories replayed an MPR show from winter stating that 1 in 2 Minnesotans will be touched by cancer in their lifetimes. One in two? And very little sleep transpired.
The call finally came five days later. (In their defense, there was a weekend in there.) The radiologist found that it was NOT sarcoma (THANK YOU, GOD!). I only heard very little of the rest of what the nurse explained. The name of the diagnosis was extremely long and basically may or may not go away on its own. It will need to be watched, but it won’t take my son’s life.
After spending some time on my knees, my heart began to take its own roller coaster ride. As much as I wanted to celebrate, I couldn’t because my heart hurt for the mommas (and daddies) of the world who wouldn’t be receiving the same good news we did. They would be gearing up for the fight of a life (literally), and they would be enduring sleepless nights, searching for countless hours to find ways to help their child, fielding phone calls and e-mails and texts from well-meaning friends who have offers of miracle cures, and learning just how powerless they really are when it comes to their child’s health. All the while, they will be savoring each day, each moment, and sometimes each breath they have with their child. They will celebrate milestones and will put on plastered smiles and will cry in the hospital corridors and elevators so as not to scare their child and will do anything to make it a good day for their sweet babes. My heart cried out for them all.
Sometimes, I think God gives me these moments to remind me of those who so desperately need my prayers because I know firsthand how such prayers can give you that extra ounce of energy to take the next step forward. Prayers have bolstered my family in the darkest moments of our journey. A literal life line! I know I haven’t reminded us of this in a while, but please, please, PLEASE hug your kids tonight and be thankful for every day you have with them.