I woke up this morning elated. My nerves were settled. My heart was happy. Today was the day Tessa could say this…
Dan and I worked together on this sign last night. Like two kids on Mothers Day morning, we anxiously waited for her to open her eyes so we could give her our hand crafted beauty. We woke up to another sign that her night nurse made taped to the door that reads, “Congrats Tessa!! You did it girrrll!!” Hilarious! When we looked over from where we slept, we could see the sign shine brightly behind her empty bag of chemo.
Even though my emotions were strung out, today was beginning to feel perfect. We were finally in the home stretch. Her counts have to recover before she can go home, but home was the goal! We talked about camping and swimming and playing outside and how everything would fall back into place for our family. “We’ll get through the rest of this,” Dan promised again, “Just a few more weeks.” There was our daughter, two and half tiny years old, running up and down the hospital halls as though she had never had a single dose of chemo ever in her life.
But she did have chemo…six rounds of it. Today she finished her last one. I spent most of morning celebrating and crying an occasional happy tear. The road to home is closer than ever…
I will rewind a bit. Tessa had another bone marrow biopsy done last week at the beginning of her intensification round. Preliminary results are usually back within the first day or two and official findings are about a week out. Like usual, I would ask as soon as possible for the preliminaries and then a week later, stalk the doctor on the floor for the final results. This time was slightly different. The answers were reserved. One of the fellows was actually pretty passive the one day I asked him. And all I wanted to know was is she in remission or not?
I got that answer this afternoon. Tessa’s primary doctors visited during her nap time. I hadn’t seen them in so long that naturally I just assumed they were in to visit like they had done in the past. They suggested that I have a seat. Tessa’s nurse was also sticking around. Something was up.
We started talking about her biopsy. Then I heard this, “The good news is that overall Tessa is responding to treatment very well.” Which is great, but we all know that any sentence that starts with “the good news is” is always followed with a second sentence that starts with “but,” or “the bad news…”
No…please not today! Today is a good day. Today is her day–our day!
Tessa is in remission. Her blast cells are five percent or less. This is normal. But there is a small population of leukemia blast cells that have new “markers” on them. This is not the best news, but it certainly is not the worst. On a positive side, this little population has shrunk from her last biopsy. “We don’t know what they are, and we don’t know what they are going to do.” So why didn’t I know about them before? It is not uncommon for this to happen (as I understood it). They did not mention it, fearing it would cause an unnecessary headache when everything else seemed to be fine because they were hoping that they were gone by now. They aren’t. They rounded up all of the information available, met with their large extensive team of specialists, reached out to the national experts (again) and presented what they had and what they were going to do. Sit back, watch, and act immediately if things go awry.
What does this mean? It is a [hopefully] a minor road bump in treatment. Although somehow it feels like more. Without those blasts, treatment would have probably ended within the next month after her last spinal tap; like central line removed and life moving forward done. But now we do not know. Instead of having one more bone marrow biopsy next month, she will have two. Then she will have them monthly until they see that these little buggers are gone. And if they are not, then we will worry about it. They tell me that the chemo she just finished is strong. They say it should wipe these cells out. A large part of me believes them, and a small part is reluctant to go there. What I am hoping for is the miracle that makes them disappear.
I spent the second part of my day crying tears of frustration. The road to home is close, I know it, but there are road bumps along the way. Talk about kickin’ a girl while she is up! Is it so wrong to wish this away? When can we just dream without interruption? For now we will slow down and do whatever needs to be done. And I am going to pray like a motha’ every day until she can hold the “cancer free” sign and every single day after that.
This is the reality of cancer. It is the roller coaster ride that never has a line. One day your flying high on the hopes of freedom, the next you hope to hell that being strong is enough. Sometimes the good days and the bad days meet in the middle, like today for instance. It keeps you sitting straight up. And in an instant that settled storm can brew back up again. But what do you do? Pray. Trust in my God. Keep faith that everything we are doing is enough to give her what she truly deserves. She did not come this far and fight this hard to let a few stubborn cells get her way. We will ride it out beside her.
When her doctors left, the nurse sat down across from me, told me to cry, talked her heart out until I stopped. Then she looked me straight in the eyes and said, “She is going to beat this thing. We are going to beat this, alright?!” She gave me a hug and put a note outside my door suggesting no one enter.
I can’t help but feel that cancer enters people’s lives for a reason; somehow the people, the experiences, the emotions are all part of the grand scheme of things. Like there is some treasure hunt for the lessons and intangible gifts that comes with the cancer lifestyle. Whatever it is, I am feeling it. I am finding it.
That will have to be the next chapter in her life…in mine, too.