Children, Illness, Rage and Strength


Any time a child is sick, it’s really hard to deal with it in any type of rational way. I say that because, at least for me, my reaction tends to be completely irrational.

My 8-year-old niece has AML leukemia. She was first diagnosed right before she turned 6 years old. She was in the hospital for approximately 6 months for chemotherapy and finally won the fight – or so we thought – by going into remission.

For those of you who don’t know about AML leukemia, it’s one of the worst, most aggressive forms of leukemia there is. Learning that she had it will be a day that I will never forget. I remember standing outside the hospital conference room as the doctors met with my sister, her husband and my mom to tell them the news. My sister and mom started crying and mom just looked at me through the window and nodded, confirming that our worst fears were true.

I braced myself against the wall and started sobbing, almost collapsing onto the hallway floor. I was completely in shock and couldn’t understand why a child would have to fight cancer. Even after hearing everything the doctors had to say, there is just no logical way to understand WHY it happens. My reaction is always completely emotional with such things. My husband asks me why I cry and the only explanation I can give is that there is so much pain and fear that it leaks out from my eyes.

After she went into remission, it was like our prayers had been answered. This little girl could finally get back to a normal life. For 21 months, every doctor visit was a reason to celebrate. I was so excited to have my sister and her kids visit 2 weeks ago because I knew that Megan would be thrilled to be so close to Forks, WA – the setting of the Twilight series, her favorite movies. Wanting to make it special for her, I arranged a Twilight tour with Team Forks so she could see all of the places that were described in the books. Without my sister knowing, I mentioned to the tour guide – Randy – that Megan was in 21 months of remission from AML leukemia. I hadn’t planned on telling him, but was moved to do so after he told us the story of his sister losing her battle with cancer. Randy did everything he could think of to pay special attention to Megan and make sure she had a wonderful experience that she wouldn’t soon forget, including gently teasing her about her crush on Jacob Black.

A day or so after my sister and her kids returned home to Ohio, Megan had another check-up with the doctor and her blood tests indicated that the leukemia had come back. Three days later, more tests confirmed that yes, the same cancer was back. Thankfully it hadn’t mutated or gone to her brain, but it has returned which means 6 more months in the hospital after 21 months of “normal.”

I have reacted even more emotionally this time. I couldn’t understand why it happened the first time and even more angry that it’s happening again. She’s only 8 years old and when the two rounds of chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant are complete, she will have spent a approximately ONE year in the hospital. Only 8 years old.

I know that life’s not fair. As an adult, I accept that. But this situation seems downright cruel to me. I have to admit that I struggle every day with this uncontrollable rage that keeps building inside of me. Rage that it’s happening again, that I’m so far away and that I don’t know what to tell my 3-year-old daughter when she asks what’s wrong.

For any person of ANY faith, times like this really challenge you to believe in anything. What I do believe in is Megan – she beat this once, and she’s going to do it again. I dare anyone to try to say that they’re stronger than her, unless you too have been through what she has…being only 8 years old.

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