April 24, 2017. It was a typical Monday morning when our world turned upside down. Ben went to work, the kids went to school, and Charlie and I went to the Y. When we got home, he was complaining of pain in his abdomen and it would stop him in his tracks. I called our pediatrician, who told us to come in. At the doctor’s office they realized that one of his testicles wasn’t where it was supposed to be and gave us instructions to go to the Hasbro ER where most likely Charlie would have a ultrasound and then a small surgery to pull his testicle back down. It wasn’t a life threatening situation, but it’s also not an issue that you want to leave untreated for long.
At Hasbro, a woman ER doctor came into our room, Charlie is sitting on my lap, but almost laying down. She immediately puts her hand on his stomach, high up, near his belly button. What I don’t know is that she sees and feels the tumor. The tumor we’ve never seen or noticed.
Charlie and l get wheel chaired over to imaging. He lays down on the table, and the ultrasound tech asks why were there, and I explain that his testicle wasn’t able to be found and we’re hoping the ultrasound will find it so he can have it surgically put back in the right place.
And she says, “And we’re looking for a tumor.”
And with those words, I knew that our lives were never going to be the same after this ultrasound.
She started the ultrasound, but soon brought in her boss, who sang “The Wheels on the Bus” to Charlie as he looked at this abdomen. For months afterward, I would hear “Wheels on the bus” and instantly be transported back to that ultrasound room and want to just throw up.
The ultrasound room was very dark, and Charlie was so tired. He fell asleep, with my hands on his face as I sang the only song that brain could remember in that moment, “This Little Light of Mine”.
The ultrasound tech and doctor very gently told me that “Yes, Charlie has a tumor, about 11cm in length”. And I lost it. I sobbed and sobbed in that dark room as Charlie peacefully slept. The kind woman came over and put her arms around me and gave me tissues. I apologized for losing it. I’m the one who always keeps it together, doesn’t cry uncontrollably. I soon came to realize in the coming days, that I am not this person at all.
That evening I was still in my gym clothes as we prepared to spend what would be the first of eight nights at Hasbro hospital and Charlie would be diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma. A word that I repeatedly had to google before I could commit the spelling and this crazy idea that my baby had cancer to my mind. It was all so dang unfathomable.
There is a clear dividing line in our lives: our life before cancer and life now. In many, many ways this has been a hard, dark year. It has been scary and impossibly hard. But we have made it to the other side of this year. Charlie has finished treatment and has no evidence of disease in his body.
I’m no expert on cancer, or suffering, or wading through the hardest year of your life, because honestly there were just a lot of days of simply HANGING ON and just making it through the next five minutes. But I can share with you what helped us make it through:
Investing in our marriage and our family.
Organic everything and essential oils.
I could write a chapter on each of these subjects, but I’ll just say this: if you’re walking through a hard, dark time, (it doesn’t have to be cancer), and one of these things that helped us jumps out at you as something you want to know more about: message me, call me, text me. Don’t stay stuck in a hard, dark time, I promise you there is more light, love and grace up ahead.
April 24, 2018. Today we remember the past, but we trust God with our future. We hold tight to our faith and each other.