When You Love Someone With Cancer Tags: cancer parenting

Cancer, if we’re honest most of us think things like cancer happen to other families, not yours – right? That is unless we’ve already heard it in connection with the name of a family member.

All or Nothing Day on July 26th is a day dedicated to living life to the fullest.  Heather Von St.James who is a 10 year survivor of mesothelioma, discovered it online and it just spoke to her so strongly that she took up the cause.  When she shared with me about it I decided to join her in spreading the word about cancer survivors and how our son Eric’s journey through leukemia has affected my life.

Learn more about a mesothelioma diagnosis here.

OUR SON ERIC HAS BEEN AN ONGOING SOURCE OF INSPIRATION TO ME.

  • He was born 7 weeks early after three months of bed rest for me.
  • Although he was supposed to be in the hospital until his due date in mid-May.  He came home after only six days.
  • He was small, just 5 pounds, but a real fighter.
  • They told us preemies don’t nurse – especially boy preemies.
  • He nursed for almost two years – which became a real blessing.

WHEN HE WAS 16 MONTHS OLD HE GOT AN EAR INFECTION.

  • After two series of antibiotics he didn’t seem to be getting any better.
  • On Sunday morning he was crying and just couldn’t be consoled. He had a temperature of 103 and our pediatrician said we should take him to Children’s Hospital.
  • When we arrived there they ran a series of tests and decided to admit him. It was then they told us they thought he had leukemia.
  • We were stunned! How do you go from an ear infection to leukemia?
  • By Tuesday the diagnosis had been confirmed. He had his first bone marrow biopsy, a Hickman catheter put into his chest. By Wednesday he had the first in a long series of blood transfusions.

WE ENTERED THE WORLD OF CANCER.

  • My big question was why? Why did this had to happen to Eric, but especially why when he was so young.
  • He was the last male child in my husband’s family.
  • We had waited and prayed for him for years and now this.

Eric would have to undergo three and a half years of chemotherapy. Just the sight of blood made me sick and now I would have to live in the hospital world for over three years. I remember the nurse coming to his room to teach me how to change the dressing on his catheter. I quickly replied, “Oh, my husband will do that.” Her reply was, “Mrs. Sather, we can let you take your son home as soon as you learn to change the dressing.” Needless to say, I drew on God’s grace and learned how to change the dressing. It was a task I would do every other day for the next three years.

WITH LEUKEMIA YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT A DAY WILL BRING.

  • Eric would wake up from a nap with a temperature which meant we would have to go to the hospital.
  • Or he would have a reaction to one of the chemotherapy drugs which also meant a trip to the hospital. Or his catheter would fall out which meant emergency surgery. By the time he was 2 years old he had undergone more surgeries than most people have in a lifetime.
  • Bone marrow biopsies every third month were the worst. I would hold him while they pumped the anesthesia into his catheter. One minute he would be talking and playing and the next he would go as limp as death in my arms. I would hand him to a nurse and race out of the room sobbing.

We were in survival mode -just putting one foot in front of the other.

HOW DID ERIC RESPOND TO ALL OF THIS?

  • He entered every day with a big smile on his face and a Zip Lock bag of Cheerios in his hand.leukemia - Eric
  • The nurses at the hospital would say they could always tell when Eric was around because there were Cheerios everywhere. His little two year old hands would drop as many as he ate.
  • He knew all the routines. If the nurses missed a step in preparing him for a test or for surgery he would stop them and remind them of what they were supposed to do next.
  • He knew everyone and had a smile for them all.

ONE DAY MY WHY WAS ANSWERED.

  • We were in for a bone marrow biopsy.
  • As we were going through the regular routine of preparation there was a boy next to us who was about 3 years old.
  • He had just been diagnosed with leukemia but there was a big difference in how he was handling all the procedures.
  • He was fighting and crying and refusing to let the nurses do what needed to be done.
  • It was then the Lord spoke to my heart. Eric had been so young when he was diagnosed that these procedures were a way of life for him.
  • He didn’t know anything else and didn’t think to question them.
  • When he learned his body parts he would proudly announce his Hickman as one of them.
  • It was then I yielded my heart to the Lord’s wisdom in this situation and saw my biggest question answered.
  • Yes, Eric had been very young to be diagnosed with such a difficult disease, but the Lord had used that for good in his life.

EPILOGUE

  • Eric is 25 now and an amazing young man.
  • He still enters every day with a smile – well at least most of them. But the bag of Cheerios is gone.
  • He loves life and does everything with an all or nothing attitude.
  • When he does something he does it as well as he possibly can.
  • His enthusiasm draws others in too. His father has learned more sports and activities because Eric was interested and talked him into trying it too.
  • He is healthy and well-rounded and enjoys talking about almost everything.

You can read more about our journey through leukemia here:

Our Journey Through Leukemia 

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