Learning that your child has cancer is devastating to say the least. As parents, our instinct is to protect our children, to keep them safe. So imagine for a second what it is like to hear the words: “your child has cancer”. We heard those words when our youngest daughter, Gwyn, was diagnosed with High Risk Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. She was only 4 years old at the time.
To us there were no obvious signs of cancer before the diagnosis. But my instincts went off after Gwyn developed a fever in the middle of the summer and small red dots on her neck. Within 24 hours of getting Gwyn checked out by her pediatrician, she was admitted to Phoenix Children’s Hospital. It was confirmed that she had leukemia. A port placed and chemotherapy started. Our lives were turned upside down in an instant.
During treatment, Gwyn spent 50+ days inpatient, had 13 different chemo drugs, steroids, and numerous other medications for side effects. She has received 12 platelet, 10 blood, and 3 IVIG transfusions. She’s had 1 ultrasound, 1 MRI, 3 bone marrow biopsies, and 22 spinal taps. Gwyn missed a year of preschool. She lost all her hair.
Overtime we adjusted to the new norm. We became more aware of our overall family’s health – symptoms to watch for, things to not ignore, cleaner eating and maintaining an active and balanced lifestyle. We struggled with how to deal not only with the medical aspects of the diagnosis, but the emotional aspects, especially with Gwyn’s sibling during this uncertain and stressful time.
Thankfully, after 2.5 years of treatment, Gwyn completed her treatment and she is now 1 year post treatment. She has a clean bill of health. She’s back in school and loves to play softball. She is a creative, energetic and kind 7 year old. Last year she was the CCN Run to Fight Race Starter! For people that did not know us before, they would have no clue that Gwyn battled leukemia!
We still stress about the “what ifs” and agonize about “why us”, and that may never change. But now we also have a new appreciation for our health and family. We can’t erase the fact that cancer is now a part of our family’s journey, but we were lucky enough to find the support of other families and Children’s Cancer Network.