Many friends and family members over the last couple of weeks have suggested that I write down my feelings, or even start a blog. I am by no means a writer or someone who likes to communicate by journaling. Additionally, I think I was hesitant because I was not sure I could adequately describe to others what happening to our family…..the truth is, I could not distinguish what I was feeling on a moment to moment basis. However, I do know that on the afternoon on December 9th, it felt like a bomb had exploded on our lives and no matter what I did or didn’t do, none of us could stop it.
Over the course of the last month, everyone asks, how did this healthy, happy child get diagnosed with cancer? After a busy month of traveling and celebrating holidays with family and friends, Joey appeared to contract that silly twenty- four stomach virus, on three separate occasions. He seemed to bounce back the day after and would resume his normal routine. The last time he got sick I decided to call my pediatrician and asked for an appointment the following day.
We went to see our pediatrician on Thursday afternoon at 4:00. It was a very quick appointment. She did a physical exam and a urine screening. She even said, “Don’t worry, we have ruled out all the big stuff.” As we were getting ready to leave, she said, why don’t we just do some blood work, we haven’t done it in a while…..
After the doctor’s appointment, Joey and I went to Friendly’s for dinner , did some homework , watched some television, took a bath, and read before bed. Looking back, I wish I would have savored every last second…..it was our last moments of “normalcy”.
The next morning, Joey went to school and I decided to go to work. I usually do not work on Fridays, but I wanted to attend a staff meeting and get some things done before the weekend. Little did we know our lives were getting ready to change forever…..
After lunch I left work, picked up a couple of gingerbread houses and extra frosting and candy and decided that I would have some of Joey’s friends over after school to build and decorate them. I even got to school earlier than usual and parked my car, so he wouldn’t have to walk in the cold. I was also excited to surprise him with the ginger bread houses I bought! While I was waiting in my car a friend pulled up behind me and I decided to jump in her car to chat.
Then I received the phone call…..The bomb was dropped….Joey’s pediatrician is the calmest person I know and from the second I said hello, I knew something was drastically wrong. She asked me where I was, where Chris was?? The rest of the phone call is a little bit of a blur. But at some point, I knew my friend knew to call Chris and get Joey from school.
My memory of the emergency room is also not exactly clear. One would tend to think that you would remember every last detail from the single most important moment in your life, but I cannot….I remember it as doctors and nurses trying to explain things to me that made no sense, trying to convince myself that things were fine, when everyone around me seemed to think something was wrong. They kept saying one blood test showed suspicious cells, but then the blood test they did was not conclusive. What does suspicious mean and why are they are not telling me anything!
Then after what seemed like hours, they said, that the tests were inconclusive and they were releasing us. However, they needed us to check in with the on call doctor in the morning to review the blood work.
We drove home that night, hopeful, scared, confused, lost, happy, emotional…..Joey went to bed, Chris fell asleep and I was up all night thinking about what time I could call that doctor. I remember staring at Joey sleeping that night, thinking he looked so peaceful, happy, and healthy, how could anything be so wrong.
At 9:30 I called the answering service and left a message, Joey and Chris were playing Madden on x-box and I was making breakfast. I remember catching my breath and thinking, maybe things were going to be okay. And then the phone rang. I remember the doctor’s voice was calm and soft and he asked how Joey was feeling and then he said, please come back to the hospital. I remember starting to cry and the doctor said they needed to run more tests. I knew at that moment that things would never be the same.
By the time we got to the hospital, I could barely stand and the not knowing of what we were up against and having all these questions was quickly eating away at all of us. My parents met us at the hospital, but I can’t remember a single conversation I had with them. They had us wait in the emergency room for what seemed to be forever as they checked us in and then they took me and Chris and my father into a family room to talk to us.
Again, its ironic at the most pivitol moments that you cannot remember what exactly takes place, but I know that they told me in this little room that my sweet, happy child had cancer……and that bomb exploded all over again….and again….
We spent the next week in Hackensack Hospital. For me that week was a complete blur….I am not exactly sure how or where I got the strength to survive that week. It was single handley the hardest week of my life. During that first week, Joey endured chemo 3 times, had a port put into his chest, had a bone marrow aspiration and a spinal tap. After the procedure he was in extreme pain and had two days, which he basically cried out in pain. It felt like someone was literally stabbing me….when I close my eyes, I can still hear him cry in pain.
Then by some miracle, on Friday afternoon, he woke up from a nap, happy and ready to take on the world and that has been his attitude ever since. We were released from the hospital on Saturday morning. We have been back to the clinic every week for chemo and Joey is a rock star! His blood counts continue to be great and the doctors are happy with his progress! He is happy and smiling and willing to meet each challenge with his amazing competitive edge!
Getting adjusted to being home, took a bit for everyone. But we are slowly getting into a routine. For the first month we are kind of like under house arrest….so at times, the walls do feel like they are crashing in on us. We are playing lots of board games, reading lots of books and playing lots of video games. As Joey has built up a tolerance to his treatments he is not as tired and is not really napping as much. He is sleeping great at night too! One of our biggest struggles is that he what I refer to as our little “food terrorist”! He eats all day and night and you can not negotiate with him about what he wants. At times it can be comical! However, the downside is that his face has changed due to the steroids and sometimes I catch a glance at him from across the room and my heart sinks. I know this is only temporary. But this is just another aspect that has changed in our lives.
This Tuesday, will mark the end of what the doctors refer to as our induction period. On Tuesday morning, he will undergo another spinal tap and infused chemo treatment into his spine and also another bone marrow aspiration. The good news is that we are able to stop the intense oral steroids that he has been taking for the past month.
Within five days or so, we should have pathology from these tests and know what are next step is. We will have a better understanding what the next phase of treatment will look like. We are hoping and praying, that Joey’s tests yield that the cancer is undetectable at that point.
I believe the reason that we as a family have been able to endure this first month is for several reasons. The first is, I strongly believe that there is something or someone up there that is Joey’s guardian angel. We are so fortunate and blessed that our pediatrician did a blood test and found his cancer so early. Joey was able to enter this fight, healthy and ready to win. Additionally, we would be nothing without and nowhere without our community. You all have single handily raised us up with your love, light, positively and prayers. We can feel your love and prayers and believe me they are working…please do not ever stop! To all of you who helped make our Christmas full of love, we thank you! This year, we expierenced the true meaning of Christmas! To everyone who has signed up to cook a meal for us, we thank you! For all the gifts, tokens, cards, donations, texts, phone calls, messages, emails……we thank you!
Due to everyone’s generosity, we have been able to hire a trainer to come to the house twice a week to work with Joey. Joey’s goal from day one is that he wants to get back on that football field. So between his doctors and Chris and I, we are going to do everything we can to help Joey achieve his goal! Additionally, Joey has also started home schooling every day after school and is really enjoying it!
So today, January 10th we finally reached day 29 of treatment…..I thought I would feel different today. Maybe a sense of accomplishment or maybe even relief, but as I sit here and update everybody, all I feel is complete exhaustion. Today, Joey finished the induction stage of his treatment. He had another round of chemo infused through his spine, a spinal tap and a bone marrow extraction. The pathology results take a couple of days before they are complete. Although we were at the clinic today bright an early, the anesthesiologist had an emergency and we were delayed until around lunch time. While Chris and I were nervous and anxious, Joey was basically in a good mood, just extremely hungry because he had to fast.
This week’s blood test showed that his numbers were excellent and that his white blood count came up! The doctors continue to happy with his excellent progress! Joey continues to be our rock star!
We are meeting with our team of doctors this coming Friday, January 14th at 11:30. During that time, we are asking all of our prayer warriors to pray for us during that hour. Grab whoever you are with during that time and please pray! Pray for our strength, pray for the knowledge of our doctors, and pray that the next steps of Joey’s treatment are manageable. We so believe in the power of prayer and the power of our community. We believe that we can create our own miracles, so please pray with us~ we can feel your love and support and we are forever grateful.
Please check back at MaydayMissions.org for our updates. I will try my best to keep everyone informed of Joey’s treatment and what is happening on this journey. Keep praying, keep believing, and create miracles! #joeybstrong