Saturday, October 29, 2016

RIP Professor Heidenberg

Do you ever find yourself surrounded by people yet feeling alone? Not the normal alone. That I thoroughly enjoy. I love seeing a movie by myself or sit quietly in a Starbucks sipping my coffee with a good book. That is not the alone I am talking about. I mean the alone where you feel like no one truly understands how hard your life is, how difficult it is just to be you. There are days I wish I could run away and start over, like a kid who dreams of "running away to join the circus". It is a dream that you know will never come true because as a Mom your kids are your life, you cannot just start over.

Ever since I saw that new tumor on the MRI scan I have been struggling in a new way. For the last three years my prayer has been that Emma will get better, that she will beat cancer, that we will move from 3 month monitoring to 6 months to 9 months to 12 months, that life would balance out to some type of new normal. When I saw that tumor I realized that this dream was a pipe dream. We continue to fight. I looked up at our sweet Oncologist with tears in my eyes and asked, "It will never be over, will it?" she looked back at me with tears in her own eyes, "No, no it is not."

You see unlike most cancer kids ours has a genetic mutation that causes her to grow tumors all the time. Her body does not recognize that tumors are bad and stop them on its own like most people. For nearly all NF people this is not a huge deal. It means plastic surgery to remove cosmetic tumors or sometimes invasive surgery to remove tumors that cause issues but they are benign and not a huge deal. Emma is the rare kid that had a one of those tumors go cancerous...and at 2 years old. So already she was set up for a lifetime of cancerous tumors. I naively believed these last three years that if we could remove part of it and hit it with chemo the battle would be over, and it was...for a year.

I called my sister from the parking lot to tell her the news, I felt numb, I remember telling her, "this is my life now". I used to be a University Professor and left the house in heels. I used to travel once or twice a year with my husband. I used to have good credit and no debt. Never again. My life is now "Emma's Mom". It is appointments and tests and medication and MRIs and specialists. It is homeschooling and therapy appointments. It is drowning in medical bills and pay check to pay check. I will never be able to go back to work or own a home or travel again.

I know this sounds like a Pity many ways it is. I am mourning the loss of the life I once had, the life I thought I would get back. I know now that I have to find a way to be happy in this new life. I need to find a new normal. I need to be grateful that she is still alive and fighting. For right now I am not there yet. I am sad and feeling alone. My friends, although amazing, have no idea what it is like to have a death sentence to the life you fought so hard to build. Only cancer mothers can understand but even then their kids may win their battle and their lives can resume. They can go back to work and their kids get to have a childhood again. Not us.

Before you all comment on how grateful I need to be etc etc let me just say I will get over this, it is a process. I need to be sad and mourn my loss then bury it and move on with this new life I have been dealt. That time will come but it is not now. Right now I am allow to feel the feels.

Monday, October 24, 2016

New Tumor, Denial, and the Fears that Haunt Me.

Sometimes I am absent from blogging because I am too busy, sometimes I am fighting logistical nightmares like technology, and sometimes I have nothing to say just yet. This absence was all three.

I had created a bubble. It was pleasant. It was a bubble where Emma was a cancer survivor and Gracie was only monitored every few months. After I saw her new tumor on the MRI then promptly cried in the arms of my Oncologist I went to my "happy place" - sorry you have reached a Mommy that is not in service, please hang up and try again. We didn't talk about it. Not with Emma, not with each other, not much at all. Then I went to drop Emma off at school and her sweet Principal asked about her new results. I gave her my brave face and rehearsed response I give out readily to people who ask. She dug deeper, then deeper (out of concern for us of course). I heard myself say to her, "We knew three years ago when we found her first cancerous tumor that this is not a fix it game, this is a extend her life as long as possible and make her comfortable." Suddenly I burst into tears. It caught up to me. What I have feared for three years is happening. This is not something I can cure or cut out surgically or give her medicine to maintain. This is something that will haunt us and taunt us. It will give us a year of quiet then come back thrusting us back into chemo and surgery. Then one day it might win...or the treatments will kill us. Now that's depressing.

With NF children doctors follow a protocol. Before jumping into treatment or surgery they want to see the tumor,
1. Grow by 25% from one scan to another
2. Impede functions (eye sight, mobility, etc)
This new tumor is about the size of a pea and deep in the middle of the right side of her brain. It would be very very difficult to remove surgically but it might be possible to biopsy if we have to at some point. Her team is positive it is the same cancer we fought before.

This time Emma is older, more aware. She is asking me about her mortality, if this will kill her, if she will need more surgery, more chemo, more needles. In the spirit of positivity and not projecting too far into the future I just told her that we might have to fight again but we will win and left it at that.

This time I am afraid. I fear that I am too broken to be strong for her. I fear that the treatments will hurt her, make her lose her hair again, and put us back in the ER every week with an unknown fever. I fear the long commute to Stanford in Bay Area traffic. I fear finances will not be available because we are depleted from our last fight. I am frightened that I am alone with out family here locally to help me and that I have over used our friends who do help. I fear the strain this will put on my marriage, we survived one battle but will we survive another?

I feel like when I try to process this news I open up a can of worms. Problems spilling out everywhere. So I just do not think about it. I keep living like we are healthy. Then the hospital calls me to remind me about an appointment I forgot we had (because I wasn't looking) or a sweet friend asks about the girls, or I get a moment alone and suddenly tears are uncontrollable and I feel that I might die from sadness.

I am going to do something I have not done in awhile...I am going to ask for specific help.
- Prayer and lots of it.
- Keep the coffee coming.
- If you can watch the kids (and my kids know you well) please offer to take the twin who is not going to an appt on days we go to Stanford.
- If you live in the Bay Area and you are willing to let us crash at your place if we are too tired to drive home or need to wait out traffic can you please message us your address?
- If we go back on chemo it will be around the holidays so any help getting things set up for Christmas way before that happens is great.
- Lastly understand there are some days I just can't talk about Emma's medical stuff. Just brining it up sends me into anxiety and panic and sadness. It is best to just let me bring it up, then you know for sure I can talk about it.