Where to begin? The most obvious choice would be to start on September 7th, 2007. That’s where the actual “Cancer Story” starts.
But it really begins before that.
It all started with a pair of flip-flops. I know that sounds stupid but a pair of flip-flops is what should have been the sign there was something wrong. They were pink with a chunky heel that had a light blue stripe and a multicolored ribbon for the strap. She thought they were great. We went to the car and she walked out of the left one. We got out of the car in the parking lot of Target and she walked out of the left one. We got home and … yeah she walked out of it – I figured you would see the pattern. This was in May 2007. I chalked it up to being uncoordinated. When B was trying to teach her how to bat she had trouble holding the bat with her left hand and B showed me that when you have her squeeze your hands the left doesn’t squeeze as hard as the right. I had her squeeze my hands and there was a difference but it didn’t seem like a huge problem. Dave did the same thing. We shrugged. Should we call the doctor? The answer should have been yes. But we decided just to “keep an eye on it” because maybe she had trigger finger like Sara had when she was little. This would be where the GUILT starts.
I know hind sight is 20/20 and I know that something like not keeping flip-flops on your feet or a small difference in squeezing hands doesn’t shout “YOUR FIVE YEAR OLD HAS A BRAIN TUMOR!” but in my mind now — it should have. There were other things too, like going backwards in ability at gymnastics class. She had been so close to doing a cartwheel and then it starting getting harder and harder instead of easier. When you think of something like a life threatening illness you expect the signs to be a bit bigger. Like instead of a small black and orange “open” sign in the window you expect there to be a giant blue and pink neon flashing sign. This would be RATIONALIZATION to try to diminish the guilt. More rationalization is thinking that if I had called the doctor maybe he wouldn’t have found it either. Knowing her doctor – who likes to take a “wait and see” approach before ordering big tests and procedures – maybe it would have been weeks or months before he figured it out too.
All the rationalization in the world doesn’t actually take away the nagging feeling of guilt that I have because I didn’t take her to the doctor in May (or June or July or August). Maybe she wouldn’t have had to have such a radical re-section of the tumor, maybe her left side wouldn’t be as damaged as it is now, maybe she wouldn’t have had to endure 14 months of chemotherapy. Maybe maybe maybe…. the maybe’s still keep me up some nights.
In defense of my official lack of parenting skills and maternal instinct…. does this look like a kid who has a tumor invading her brain?
This was taken at the beginning of August.
So how did we get to the doctor’s office on September 7th? Well it started when she began pre-school at “Shooting Stars.” The mornings we would get up she always complained she had a headache. But after she ate and went to school she was fine. She spent some time at my mom’s on Labor Day Weekend and my mom found out that she couldn’t hop on one foot. There were alarm bells going off in my head but I just couldn’t for the life of me put all the puzzle pieces together to figure out what was wrong with her. Then she fell not once but twice trying to walk around the corner in the hallway. So on Tuesday morning (9/4) I called and asked for an appointment to see the doctor – given the random stuff like hand squeezing, not hopping properly and tripping they scheduled me for the following Wednesday (9/11). Tuesday afternoon when I picked her up from pre-school the teacher told me they couldn’t get her to open her left hand to make hand prints. I was in a panic mode at that point and called my sister who calmed me down. After I got off the phone Teagan asked me “Mommy what do you wish for on your shooting star?” – because that was what they had done at school that day. I don’t remember what I told her because all I could hear was the voice in the back of my head screaming “THAT YOU ARE GOING TO BE OK!”
Two sleepless nights (for me not her) and one trip to zoo where she couldn’t use her left hand to pick up a potato chip and suddenly I started to see the giant blue and pink neon flashing sign. I asked why she didn’t use her left hand and her answer was that “it was afraid.” She told me she fell at school trying to do a cartwheel and her left hand was “afraid” after that.
Calmly (sort of), I called the doctor one more time on Friday September 7th, 2012. I told them we had an appointment for next week but could we come in before that because she fell and hurt her arm when she was doing a cartwheel. Of course a possible dislocated shoulder, elbow, wrist, or even worse a BROKEN BONE got us an 845 am time slot that very same morning.