Brandon's Story (part 2) - Diagnosed

One of the reasons that I'm participating in "Summit for Wishes" is to honor the memory of what my husband and his family went through when/after he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) in 1985. Their story has touched me in so many ways - and so I'm sharing it with you...

In "Brandon's story - part 1" I gave a very general introduction to this series. In part 2, I'm telling you more about when he was actually diagnosed.  

Like so many children who get sick - Brandon was an active and healthy toddler who became lethargic, tired and cranky almost overnight.  Confused by the change in his demeanor, his parents took him to the doctor and were basically told that he was just spoiled. Unfortunately it wasn't that simple... 

The day Brandon was diagnosed, he wasn't even at the hospital for himself. His older sister had hurt her ankle. When they knew they were going to the hospital to have it checked, they called ahead to see if they could have blood tests done on him since they would be there anyways (despite the "spoiled" diagnosis, they were still very concerned about the changes in him).

After a small finger prick... the doctors knew that something was terribly wrong. And within an hour, Brandon's parents found themselves sitting at a table with hematologists, oncologists and psychologists; hearing words like "cancer", "your son" and "treatment" in the same sentence. The official ALL diagnosis came a little later that day. His first blood transfusion came that evening.

Can you imagine?

Those first few hours were a mess of questions, paperwork, discussing treatment options... IF they would treat or IF it was too late. Whew. I don't think anyone can understand what it must have been like, how it might have felt to be in their shoes (without having lived something similar)... the shock, the pain, the not knowing. Clinging to any signs of hope... wondering... and trying very hard to stay positive and not think about what this might actually mean. Oooof. I get shivers and a sick feeling in in the pit of my stomach just thinking about it.
Brandon still dressed up for Halloween in 1985...
....a week after entering the hospital (and isolation).
Consider also that we're talking about 25 years ago. What do you respond when the doctor asks if you're willing to try an experimental treatment and/or procedure? When they tell you that your 3 year old son will be the first child in Montreal to have an infusaport*? That they've never actually done this before, but they have high hopes for success?

I'm sure you're torn between screaming at them "don't touch my son with your experiments" and pleading "please... do whatever you think will work".

After a couple of blood transfusions, the doctors decided that Brandon was strong enough to undergo the first blast of chemotherapy. The little guy was a trooper - as him mom would say "he
always had a strong will to live". The treatment brought down his blood count almost immediately.  He started to lose some of his hair. Though he was "lucky" to never lose it all (I have a feeling 3 year olds are less concerned about hair loss than most), it was definitely upsetting to his parents who found tufts of dark hair on his pillow every morning.

From that first day in the hospital (and his ALL diagnosis) Brandon spent about 3 weeks in isolation. His mother almost never left his side... sleeping next to him in his crib every night. Wouldn't you if it was your child? If you thought your time with him was threatened? But remember here - Brandon has an older sister. She spent those first weeks being shipped back and forth between her dad, aunt and grandmother.  Something like that has to take a toll. On both parent and child. While your focus is on the sick one, you never forget that you have another one (who needs you too) at home.

And the "mom-guilt" sets in.

(to be continued)

*The infusiport had been used in other areas before, but not Montreal. (What is an infusaport?)


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