Friday, January 18, 2013

"Please, not another child"

What a beautiful day to wake up to. The sun is shining, the expected snow storm never arrived, with the exception of the rivers flooding it is as if it's a Spring day. We live high up from the river, but one of the two main roads always closes when flooding occurs. Last night Frank advised that we not head out for our early appointment at the Cancer Center. We weren't sure what happened in Asheville (45 minutes away), they were to have more snow and / or black ice. After calling the Center first thing, trying to get out of going, Angie advised that we really did need to come in since his counts were so low on Tuesday. We scheduled it for 10 am. Zack started out the morning in a good mood, but as soon as he found out we still had to go his mood changed dramatically. He has become more withdrawn lately and it is harder to pull things out of him. He sat on the bench at the end of my bed and turned his back to me. I kept asking him what was going on, what he was feeling, he finally turned around as he wiped the tears from his eyes. He finally said he didn't want to go there and also didn't want to go to Hendersonville to Social Security as well. I reminded him that there is no possible way for me to guess what he is feeling, if he doesn't tell me, there isn't a damn thing I can do. (We seem to have this conversation on a weekly basis). His friend Donald stayed again last night and wants to go with us to better understand what Zack is going through. His mother has battled and survived cancer before and is now having treatments for another type of cancer. He doesn't really like to talk about it much and I don't push. Zack and I discuss the day and once I tell him that he doesn't need to be with me for some of the appointments in Hendersonville, his mood gets better.

As we exit the house, Zack picks up one of his Lovenox shots, sticks the needle in his belly and within minutes we are out the door. This, as with other things, has become second nature to him, though he hates taking the shots, since he is no longer having to do two a day, he at least remembers. The three of us pile into the car (Zack 6' 5" and Donald 6") would be my definition of a pile and decide which route to take in order to arrive safely. Much to my joy, the roads were clean and the drive easy. I take the opportunity on the drive over to get to know Donald. He is a very funny young man, who likes to say catch phrases with different accent, British, Country, Spanish. I noticed that he can't sit still for very long and it wasn't until lunch together that he opened up about ADHD. I understand that all too well and it make things clearer for me. He is respectful and at 16 a Senior with one required English credit in order to graduate. He opened up about his childhood and his mothers battle with cancer. Though he doesn't talk about her illness much, you can tell that he is very close to her and has a tremendous amount of respect for her as well. Zack agrees that his mother and I would get along really well. The more I talk with the young man, the more I see into his heart. I am discovering that it takes very special kids to remain friends with Zack through his treatment. It is not fun at all to witness what he is going through, his mood swings can be down right frustrating (even though quite understandable), his limitations with regards to where and when he can go out and his no longer being directly involved with music, art or sports in the school like he had been in all previous years creates a barrier that even those who stand behind are not aware of its presence. "Out of sight, out of mind" can be a brutal reality.

We arrive at the Cancer Center. Zack has chosen to have his labs drawn from his arm instead of accessing his port. In the event they need to give him blood or platelets, he will then have it accessed. As we are kidding around in the exam room, a woman stands in the door, she looks in a panic and says to Angie "I'm sorry, I need to see THIS family," and points to me. Zack immediately recognizes her as a mother of one of his school acquaintances. Angie looks at me confused,  I walk out in the hall and immediately the woman (I won't yet share names) tells me that they only this past Wednesday were told her daughter would require a biopsy to see if she had cancer in her arm. She said that a mutual friend told her to get in touch with me as we were going through the same and I could help her out. She grabbed hold of me and we stood in the hall hugging. I told her not to think the worse, she explained that was going to be hard, as she has already lost her husband and beloved dog to bone cancer. She was quite shaken, trying to hold it together. We just kept holding each other, as if that would take away our pain. I let her know that no matter what the outcome, she was at the perfect place with the perfect people and if they it turns out not to be their expertise, they would send them to the best place. She kept saying, "I was supposed to find you, you can help me, I know it!" The nurses were so glad too, that we connected. They said they were trying to find a way for us to meet, knowing that we were both from Brevard and were excited that we would be here at the same time. It hit me again that if this turns out to be cancer, that would be the third student (two from high and one from middle school) in our small town. We can only hope that this will not be the case for this family, though the mother is convinced it is, having gone through this before. I assured her that I would indeed be available to help in any way I could. I left her the blog address and my phone number as she went into the exam room to meet with the doctor for the first time. 

Not long after, we were escorted to another room to wait for the lab results. Dr. B. came in and met with Zack. Having had many years with pediatric cancer patients at St. Jude's Hospital he knows how to "handle" Zack and his friend, who had a mouth full of chewing tobacco. I asked the doctor to explain to him the reality of chewing tobacco and what can happen. He tries to describe the horrors of mouth cancer and explained to Donald that if he saw Zacks' leg after radiation, imagine that damage in the mouth. He can expect to have sores in his mouth as well as down his throat and possibly in his lungs. Knowing that it isn't really my responsibility to "lecture" another's child, I would hope that someone would do just the same for Zack. It must have struck a nerve because we spent a large part of the ride home talking about the dangers of smoking, chewing tobacco and poor eating habits, (the latter being something I am finally staying on track with). Donald tells me that he has been trying to quite and all I can say is "try your best, you are an amazing young man and we want you to be around and healthy for a very long time."  On our way out we stop to say goodbye to our amazing nurses. One thing I had noticed earlier this morning was Zacks' eyebrows and mustache are starting to grow back. Zack mentioned that his friends have noticed as well. We ask Melanie and she says that is not uncommon for hair to start growing back during treatment and sometimes it falls out again! Zack and I look at each other and just shrug our shoulders, "oh well, it goes, it comes, whatever!!"

"Strike a pose"
Still a bit shaken having met the young mother, I ask the boys if they mind me stopping at a couple of stores, to clear my head. Retail therapy is all I have left, since I'm staying on a weight watchers program. (Usually I would run for an ice cream or candy bar).  After grabbing a quick lunch, the boys and I head out of town. To give you an idea of today's humor, I am driving through a tunnel and Zack announces that they must hold their breath until we arrive on the other side. Music to my ears, quiet, so being "me" I start to drive slower and slower through the tunnel, Zack quickly catches on and tries his hardest not to laugh, once we exit we are all in hysterics. His friend looks at me and says "you're a lot of fun!", what more could a mother want to hear. I drop them off at Target to see if they can find a couple of shirts. I go into a couple of shops and come out with two containers that will hold our Juice Plus capsules and a banner for the office for Valentines Day. Luckily I wasn't in much of a buying mood, just wanted to window shop and process the mornings event. When we finally meet up, the boys are laughing, telling jokes and just having a fantastic time. Donald shows me a couple of pictures he has taken of him and Zack and the goofiness they showed in the store. I previously mentioned that Donald was dating Leia (Drakes sister), well as expected, they are now just very good friends (I promised him I would retract my previous statement). On our way home we stopped by West High in Hendersonville and picked up his current sweetie. It turns out that we had met her last summer while on a camping trip. She is coming back to the house with us and all the kids are going to hang out together until time for her parents to come pick her up. She too is very nice, kind of quiet. Putting on our "parent" hat, Frank and I lay down the law and consequences if rules are not followed. The boys are also told as soon as we get home,they must first clean the kitchen and Zacks room before hanging out with the girlfriend. 

Once the kitchen and room are cleaned we send the kids out for pizza dinner. They settle back playing video games with Zack as Frank and I settle in watching television and catching up on the days events. With all the emotions of the day, I sit back and Thank God that we are home safe with laughter in the house. 

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