He is my hero

The Leukemia Diagnosis

Blood forms in the bone marrow and from there it is released into the body to complete its mission: the red cells transport the oxygen to the tissues, the white cells fight against the viruses, bacteria and fungi, and platelets help form clots to stop bleeding.

Diagnosis of leukemia is extremely difficult because many symptoms mimic those of normal childhood illnesses. The onset of the disease can be slow and insidious or very rapid. Initially, children begin to tire easily and rest often. Frequently they have a fever, which come, and goes. Interest in eating gradually diminishes, but only some children lose weight. Parents usually notice pale skin and occasional bruising. Some children develop back, leg, and joint pain, which make it difficult for them to walk. Often lymph nodes in the neck or groin become enlarged, and the upper abdomen protrudes due to enlargement of the spleen and liver. Children become cranky and irritable, and occasional nosebleeds develop.

Since Stephanie’s diagnosis, we have lived with a constant heartache. In September of 2002, she was supposed to be off her 2.5-year treatment plan. However, we were hit with the devastating news that the leukemia cells were still 70% in her bone marrow. We delayed the starting of the new treatment until January 2003

It was in July of 2000. Our daughter Stephanie was not feeling good. We took her to the ER several times. The doctors assured us that there wasn’t anything wrong. Then she started to have lymph nodes behind her head. We did not pay attention to them until one evening when my wife and I came home from work, (we were employed at the same place at the time) and my mother in law showed us what appeared to be a very swollen chin.

We took her to the hospital right away. After the consultation, the doctor in charge said, “She looks like a little healthy baby, I cannot say what she has. If you want, you have two choices: to take her to the hospital to get some tests done or to take her tomorrow morning to see her pediatrician”. We chose option number two. The pediatrician consulted her and said that she had a virus that comes over night and goes away in couple of weeks. He prescribed her some antibiotics. Weeks later we finished the antibiotics and nothing happened, to the contrary things got worse.

Steph became so weak that she no longer wanted to run around and play, she would just look for a place to rest. On a Wednesday, two weeks later, we took her back to the clinic. This time my parents in law went with her because my wife and I had to work. Four nurses had to hold Stephanie to be able to get a blood sample from her tiny veins. The doctor believed that she might have TBC. He said to come back with her on Friday to see the results of the blood and TBC tests. He then told us they might have the tests results sooner and to check back the next day (Thursday). I called on Thursday around 10:00 am.

The nurse answered right away. I was shocked at first because all the clinics these days have automatic message systems; you have to press a lot of buttons to talk with a live person. She told me that they received the test results but that I needed to speak with the doctor; the best time to call him was right after lunch. I asked her how the tests were? “You need to talk with the doctor about them” she responded. I automatically felt that something was not right. I called at 1:00 sharp. This time the doctor himself answered. I asked him about the tests results. “Yes we have the results and they are not good, your daughter has cancer, leukemia, more precisely, and you need to take her to the OHSU Dornbecher hospital” (one of the best hospitals in the North West.)

His words sounded like thunder from the other end of the wire. I felt like the floor was melting under my feet, the white walls where the telephone hung started to become colored and then dark. He talked for several minutes, trying to explain what kind of cancer it was and what it does, but I could not hear him or understand him. His voice produced a lot of pain in my heart. Finally, while he was still trying to comfort me, I think I hung up on him. I sat down and took a few deep breaths.

“My daughter has cancer? This cannot be true,” I thought to myself, hoping I would soon wake up and find it all a nightmare. I went and found my wife. She was in the middle of an important meeting, but I did not care. My little precious daughter has cancer. We walked out in the cold and empty hallway of the company, got into the car and drove home. That whole half an hour ride home we cried like two babies.

We could not imagine the tragedy that came upon us. We arrived home where my parents in law were waiting for us. We told them the horrifying news that we could barely believe. They were shocked too. We knelt down in prayer, asking God to take care of our situation, and especially Stephanie. We called our families and they were in shocked too to hear the horrifying news. Soon the news would shock the community. On the way to the hospital, Steph was trying to cheer us up, talking in her own words with us, “Daddy, look! Bum-bum (her expression for a car)” she said showing us the cars that we were passing on the freeway. We were numb. Continue