April 27, 2004. The day my life, and everything in it, was flipped upside down and shattered into a million pieces.
I don't need to look at pictures to remember the day. I assure you that everything about it is burned into my memory. The sounds, the sights, the smells - it's all there.
I remember sitting in Joshua's ICU room. It was dark because he was still really drugged up. I had scooted the rocking chair right next to his bed. I was holding him in my arms and just rocking with him. All the lines and tubes were draped across his body, keeping him hooked to all the monitors and IV pumps.
Rick had just left with his brother. They had gone across the street to Burger King. My mother-in-law, Patti, was sitting on the other chair across the room, by the window. We were just talking quietly.
The door opened, and in walked Dr. Dickens. We had only met him once before, during surgery. He had come into the surgical waiting room and had asked us if we would allow him to keep Joshua's tumor for research if it turned out to be cancer. He seemed really nice, but honestly, I didn't want to know him if he was a cancer doctor. When he came into the room, I looked up, and felt sick to my stomach.
He kneeled down onto the floor in front of me and he looked me in the eyes. "We looked at the tumor under a microscope and we're pretty sure it's cancer."
That was it. One sentence that literally changed my life forever.
I started to cry. I just held my little baby and rocked, back and forth, clinging to him like he was all I had left. My mother-in-law walked over. She put her hand on my shoulder and cried with me.
Then something occured to me. Rick was gone. He wasn't there when Dr. Dickens came in. When he got back, I was going to have to tell him the news. It was about 10 minutes later when he came in with his brother. I told him we needed to go for a walk. We went down to the lobby and I had to tell him the worst possible thing for a parent to hear.
Our son, this child we created together, who was literally our whole world, had cancer.
The days after that are a blur. I remember getting moved from PICU to this place called 7 South. It was where all the other "cancer kids" were. We stayed there for the rest of Joshua's recovery from surgery. I remember these oncologists coming in and talking to us about treatment, chemotherapy, side effects, stem cells, harvesting, transplant, rescue, survival rates. I didn't understand any of it. I couldn't even absorb it all. I just sat and cried during the entire conversation. Thank God our moms were there and heard what we didn't. We were in shock and could not comprehend all these things these doctors were saying.
One day at a time, we made it through. Sometimes trying to survice the whole day was too much for me, so I would promise myself I would make it through the next hour, or the next 15 minutes. Whatever it took.
Two weeks after surgery we started chemo. I remember sitting in the hospital room on May 9th, which was Mother's Day that year. Joshua was getting his first round of chemo. I remember thinking, "Wow, this is not how I wanted to spend today." May 15th is my birthday. Joshua was still getting chemo. I sat there and thought to myself, "Who would have thought I would spend my birthday watching my child get poison pumped into his body to fight a disease that will otherwise kill him?"
Fast forward through 5 rounds of standard chemo, one round of high dose chemo, a stem cell transplant on October 27th, 2004. We checked into the hospital for transplant in October and didn't leave until December. Then we had to keep him in isolation at home until February, 2005.
It was our life for almost a year.
But today, April 27th, 2009, Joshua celebrates his 5 year "Cancer-versary".
Look how far he's come. Look how far WE'VE come as parents and a family. God has greatly blessed the people most important to me, and I am so thankful for that.
I know too many parents whose children lost the battle. I've seen with my own eyes, too many children that I love and care about earn their angel wings and leave their devoted families behind to learn to live again without them. It's not fair. I still cry about it and I still get angry sometimes. Why is it that children, who haven't even had a chance to LIVE, have to go through something like this?
It doesn't make me less happy that my child survived. But it does make me more passionate at finding a cure for this, so other families will NEVER know how hard this journey is.