Monday, November 24, 2008

That Day Part III

We survived that first night - I don't know how. I don't remember anything after my sobbing fit. The next morning we met who would become a very important person in our family - Dr. Saylors. He was to be Georgia's hemoc doctor and he seemed dry and negative to the bone. We would later learn that this was not true, but at the time he sure seemed that way. He gave us the facts: her body was full of leukemia and her blood needed to be cleaned. Yes, cleaned. She was to begin apheresis in a few hours. A process that slowly cycles the blood out of the body and through a machine that pulls the leukemia out - which is really just sick white cells. Sounded barbaric to me. I remember my mom telling me that she thought it sounded like a miracle. However, this process was just a starting place because Georgia had so much leukemia it wasn't safe to immediately give her chemo. All of the killed cells have to go somewhere and that was just too many dead cells at once. So we were taken down the hall to "apheresis". There were three other children in the room hooked up to huge machines with blood running in one side of a reel and back out another. I was terrified of this machine but could not show it because at this point Georgia was beyond terrified. However painful the process sounded, it was actually quite simple. They hooked the machine up to her iv and she just laid there. It did take four hours though.

At some point she had begun to look sick. She was very pale, almost green and very weak. She wasn't talking to anyone much. When the apheresis was complete we were shown the bags of sludge that came out of her blood. It was terrifying! I don't know how her blood continued to be pumped through her body. What if I hadn't taken her to the doctor when I did? I've always been the type that rarely goes to the doctor or takes my kids there. It's hard to say what was going through my mind at this time but at some point I had begun to ask myself HOW. How did this happen? Where did it come from? Is it something I fed her, something I did when I was pregnant, something in our environment? Of course the doctors said no to all of this, but to this day I wonder.

That second night in the hospital Georgia awoke screaming "momma" over and over. Screaming. I never felt so useless and scared in my life. I literally wanted to run screaming into the night, or bash my head into the wall until the pain of hearing your baby scream was gone. I wanted to run, and I know that Scott felt the same way, but he handled it in usual quiet way. The staff tried several pain killers until eventually they gave her morphine and that allowed her to sleep the rest of the night. When she finally fell asleep, Scott and I just sat and cried. Never had either one of us known such pain.

The next six days went by as slow as one can imagine, but they are a blurr in my mind. They were a so many tests and procedures and a couple surgeries. One surgery to place a temporary line in her leg and another to place a long term port in her chest. There were so many tears, from Scott and I, and from Georgia. There was fear and frustration. There was confusion as new people came into our lives everyday. New people who wanted to do new things to our precious little girl. They spoke in terms that we did not understand - neutrophils, central lines, vincristine... But something else began to happen over those 8 days, I began to find my faith. It had never left, I just couldn't see it for the doubt.

I liken faith and doubt to two trees planted side by side. When the sun comes up over the trees, the shadow of the doubt tree covers the faith tree. The faith tree is still there it is just covered by the shadow of doubt. The bigger your doubt tree the longer it takes for the shadow to come off your faith. You see I had the faith to believe that this disease would not take our baby, I was just overwhelmed by the shadow of circumstances. God had given us Georgia, she was a perfect gift asked for and received from God Almighty. She would live. My faith tree grew, and the shadow pulled back. My faith is built on knowing, knowing my God, knowing His goodness and mercy, knowing that He loves me and loves Georgia even more than I do - which is unfathomable. I began to remember God's love for me, for Scott. for Georgia. I began to recall His promises. And then...I was ready to fight. The devil would not take my baby. She was and is a gift from God, sent to do wonderful, amazing things with her life and that would not be changed by the words of man or the physical circumstances of her body.

We were given a diagnosis. Acute lymphocytic leukemia. A very treatable form of leukemia. She will endure almost 3 years of treatment, but I now believe that she is already healed by the blood of Jesus, we just have to wait for the doctors to discover this same truth. It's been 8 months since her diagnosis today. We have had good days and really, really bad days. I have had moments when the shadow of doubt covered my faith again. However, I always find it again. I have learned that my baby girl is tough beyond compare. I have learned that I can handle things that I never dreamed possible. I have learned that there is a whole community out there of families fighting childhood cancer bravely. Some have lost the battle, some are just beginning, but they all fight bravely. I still mourn for the days that the devil has taken from my baby - days of pain and sleeping all the time. I know that God will restore her body completely and give her days full of joy.

Monday, November 17, 2008

That Day Part II

We arrived back at the clinic, and I was not sure if I was imagining things or if everyone was looking away from us. We waited for the doctor and Georgia continued to whine that she didn't want to go to the hospital. Dr. Ball finally came in. He said, "the bloodwork showed that Georgia's white cell count was about 111,000." I did not know what this meant - was that too many, not enough? He continued, "I already called Arkansas Children's Hospital and talked to Dr. Saylors. He needs you to come down there tonight. I am just going to tell you that they are probably going to find out she has leukemia. Now that does not mean what it used to, not even what it meant 10 years ago." My mind was racing - they made a mistake, there's no way, they made a mistake, how are we going to afford going down there, I don't even have gas in my tank. He gave us directions to the hospital and we left. Then I had to call Scott. "You probably want to sit down," I told him. It was rare for me to even be able to get him on the phone during the day. "The doctor says Georgia probably has leukemia. He doesn't know what kind but thinks the hospital can tell us by morning." I don't remember his exact words but I think that like me, at this point he was thinking they were wrong. Neither one of us cried and we were both pretty calm, possibly because of the denial. I did feel sick to my stomach, but if you knew what I have dealt with over the years you would think that quite a miracle. I might get into that another blog.

I drove home in autopilot. Georgia still whining and crying in the backseat that there was nothing wrong with her. I called my mom and called Scott a few more times - trying to figure out what to do with the other three kids. Somewhere in one of those phone calls, Adrian overheard and then all the kids knew. This was very hard. They immediately had pictures of sad, bald children in hospital beds with their crying parents at their sides. When I arrived at the house to pack, people in our small town were already beginning to find out. A couple friends and family arrived with cash to help us out. What a blessing they were. Amid tears, we packed and the kids went home with our friend Audra. Georgia had cheered up a little now and she danced around and sang, "no one needs to be sad because I am going to be fine." My little prophet.

We drove to Little Rock in record breaking time. There was no radio, no talking - we just drove and Georgia slept. When we arrived at the hospital, I was quite discouraged by the appearance of the emergency room. It was very run down. This was one of the best children's hospitals in the world? We now know that yes it is, but at the time I was concerned. We sat in the ER for about 5 hours. They repeated the blood work, and 2 or 3 doctors came and told us that she very likely had leukemia and we just needed to figure out what kind. I still did not cry. I don't know why but I think that it still did not seem real. Around 4 or 5 in the morning they admitted us and took us upstairs... and then it seemed real. We entered the cancer wing of the hospital. The walls were covered with murals of little bald children playing by a stream. The entryway said "cancer and blood diseases unit." Then it became real. They put Georgia in a bed and then I ran out of the room gasping for air. Fear overcame me and I sobbed until there was nothing left in me. Georgia's first Hematology nurse, Kristen, held me while I cried. I had never laid eyes on her until about 30 seconds before I fell into her arms an emotional wreck. We survived that first night and waited for news the next day. Where was my faith? I needed it now more than ever, but where was it.