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Reevaluating My Parenting After My Son’s Cancer Scare

My two-year-old’s body was shutting down. My son was too weak to move or talk and he looked tiny lying in the hospital bed. The pediatric doctor in the emergency room wanted to admit him, but her reasoning was vague. I remember asking for a copy of his labs because I wanted to research the findings. All indicators pointed to Leukemia. I looked at her and asked bluntly, was it because she was worried that he had cancer? Her reply brought me to my knees. From that moment forward, I became a different parent.

As a mother, I’ve been faced with my kids getting sick or hurt, but I never imagined that I would be laying in a hospital bed, holding my fragile two-year-old wondering if he had cancer. For the past six months he was declining. He wasn’t talking. He barely had any energy. He would pass out if he became too scared or upset. He was thin. And with every doctor’s appointment, I felt that we finally were given answers and soon he would be healing.

During one of his many check-ups, his doctor checked his hemoglobin. She looked at the results and said that something must have been wrong with her machine. So, she got another one and pricked his finger again. The same answers. This time, all she said was that she would be back and left. It felt like a lifetime before she came back in but I’m sure it was just mere minutes. She said that she tested herself to see if anything was faulting and even pricked a couple of the nurses to get their readings. All their results were normal. All I could think is, why is his result so alarming that she’s doing this?  She was so confused as to how he seemed to be functioning relatively “normal”, meaning this level is a red flag of severe internal bleeding. She sent us to the hospital to get more labs. Instead of a finger prick, they wanted to draw his blood and research it more. I thought to myself, maybe that is why he’s been sick. Cancer wasn’t even on my radar. He had his labs, and we were told to go home to wait and that his doctor will call soon. Before we pulled up to our house, she called. It was time for him to go to the emergency room because the readings were true and now, they needed to find the source of the bleed.

My husband called his mum to come to the house to watch our oldest son. As soon as she got there, we left. We went into the pediatric emergency room and before I could finish filling in the paperwork, he got a room. They hooked him up to the heart monitor, drew labs and started an IV. While we waited, his room was flooded with care coordinators to keep him distracted and in good spirits. They blew bubbles, built Legos, and coloured. After some time, the doctor came in and said that she would like to admit him for further testing.

cancer

Image: Getty

I was handed his labs and I felt as if everything was in bold, indicating that something was not within normal range. So, I plugged in his results in Google, and everything pointed towards Leukemia.

What happened over the next two weeks has become a blur. He was given morphine. He had a catheter placed, more than once. He was sedated for tests. He stopped eating. Moment by moment, I saw his body failing. His pediatric team brought in doctors from other hospitals. I never left his side or cried. He needed all my strength.

We stayed in the hospital for several more days as they gave him iron via an IV. Slowly, his stats were improving. He still had a long road of recovery ahead of him, but what damage was repairable. And something about that time, I will never forget.

It made me become a better parent. I know that I did everything I could to make him feel better by taking him to the doctor. Unfortunately, it was just something that wasn’t caught until it become dire. But it was more than that. Now, I listen to my kid’s conversations without turning them out. I don’t tell them they can’t sleep in the bed at night anymore. I take more pictures. I’ve become more patient because it was almost taken away from me.

cancer

Image: Getty

I allow them to use their voice because there was a moment when I thought I wouldn’t hear him anymore. I have empathy for their frustrations. I encourage their happiness. I understand the importance of this time. I don’t see myself as their ruler but their foundation. The trauma of my son’s cancer scare will always remind me how valuable my children are, even when they are getting on my nerves. I’d rather have a heated discussion with one of them than never be able to have another conversation.

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