Cancer Does Not Come Softly
No one is touched by cancer—you are pounded, thumped, and thrashed.
My son has cancer.
I've been slowly writing a small amount, thoughts that cannot be contained, emotions that spill out like acid reflux. There isn't really a gaviscon for the emotions cancer brings. Maybe writing will help.
I'm not sure if I should share our story or start at the beginning. The hard bit is over... sort of. Noah is almost in his second cycle of maintenance. He's almost 5 and he's almost back in school.
Cancer does not come softly—it came as a thud. No one is touched by cancer—you are pounded, thumped, and thrashed.
My son was ill and his symptoms were mild, so much so that his GP referred him only for my peace of mind, an appointment 6 months away that Noah would never attend, nor would he have seen if his cancer hadn't been caught.
It's not easy to say or think or type that your son was days away from death when he was diagnosed. But it's true. Facing the mortality of your child is hard to put into words to say the least. His tiny body was shutting down and I was trying to get him to play at the farm the week before. "You're so dramatic," I'd huff as he refused to walk.
We then sat in a paediatrics ward, hoping not to be sent home without answers. I was sure Noah must have anaemia and tests were actually being done. I wasn't afraid, I was relieved. Looking back, Noah was too ill to even cry as he was poked and prodded with needles. At one point the doctor came in: "Noah's severely anaemic and needs a blood transfusion." "Bloody Hell!" I thought. I expected some iron tablets and a follow up appointment. We were staying the night and I still wasn't afraid. The next day we were transferred to Noah's Ark Children's Hospital for Wales for more tests; still, I was not afraid. As I'm about sign consent forms for his first general anaesthetic and biopsy, Leukaemia is mentioned for the first time.
The next day I sit on a bean bag next to Noah's consultant as she explains briefly what Acute Lymphocytic Leukaemia is and the treatment he will receive. I am told remission and survival rate are good. That day, he starts chemotherapy.
It wasn't until a few days of treatment that I cried. It started with a sob in the corridor and then a wail at Noah's bedside in the middle of the night. I was afraid. I bawled through the phone, a nurse came in, checked Noah's drip, gave me a sympathetic smile, and left. That was the first sign I had that cancer could become normal.
After that, nurses and other mums kept saying they were shocked at how okay I was. After the tears, I went into survival mode, but it is difficult to focus on an end goal that is over 3 years away and survival mode didn't last.
Cancer doesn't come alone. Cancer is joined by fear and uncertainty and rage and loneliness and shock. It is gut wrenching and it burns. It is heavy and so lonely. This is the new normal. Life continues accompanied by cancer. We're walking blindfolded down an unknown path with no set destination.
My son has cancer and this is our new normal.