Thursday, October 18, 2007

to life

two years ago today we received the scare of a lifetime. our sweet, intelligent, energetic pooka, just 3.5 years old, was diagnosed with leukemia. our paradigms were permanently shifted. never again would we have that illusion of invincibility.

last year and again today, we celebrate. because on that day, before we had honestly had time to wrap our brains around reality, a dedicated team of medical professionals at the hospital took our little girl's frail body and began a ferocious battle that brought her back from the brink of oblivion.

it wasn't until much later, when we started to understand the terminology and the metrics of blood and cancer, that we saw just how close to oblivion she had come. what we had seen as her 'general malaise' had developed gradually over the 6-8 weeks prior to diagnosis. if we had waited just one week more, there would have been no recovery.

she spent two weeks in the hospital. she endured bone marrow aspirations, spinal taps, whole blood and platelet transfusions, surgical implantation of a port, and the overwhelming confusion, fear, and frustration of a toddler trapped in a strange world. they pumped her so full of fluids that we were forced to return her to diapers full-time. even then, she would overflow and we would have to change the sheets at least once in the middle of the night every night.

and then we went home. and nowhere else. her distressed immune system would not tolerate exposure to the plage central station that day care is. when she ventured out in public she wore a surgical mask. she has been hospitalized several more times, totalling approximately 2 months out of the past 2 years.

her hair fell out. adults stared rudely. children honestly asked questions.

nurses came to our house to show us how to administer injections to our patient. at one point, she was on an antibiotic schedule that required her to wear a tube accessing her port to which we attached bottles of medicine every 4 and 6 hours.

we rejected all forms of counseling. we could get through this. we would get through this.

reluctantly, we became adept at sterile manipulation and proper disposal of chemo. our kitchen was decorated with a glaring yellow sharps/biohazard disposal unit. we became versed in cancer related acronyms and other shorthand verbiage.

we endured pooka's hatred, however brief, after giving medicine. we learned how to anticipate and handle side effects, meltdowns, and intransigence. we discovered ways to cheat the doctor's admonitions in order to gain a little more cooperation without jeopardizing the overall treatment regimen. we found out which medicines she secretly liked to taste.

we became friends with other families dealing with cancer.

we absorbed everything there was to do, we set schedules, we grew accustomed. these days pooka takes her pills with no disturbance, except on very rare occasions. we know off the top of our heads how many and which pills she takes on any given day of the week. we are close enough to start counting down the months until treatment is completed.

earned our medical merit badges?
bet your ass we have.