It was 4 o’clock in the afternoon on Thursday, February 24, 2011, my husband, Matt, and I had just picked up our 6-year-old son, Grayson, from school. Climbing back into our car, I scrambled to grab my ringing cell phone. It was Michelle, my children’s stepmother. She hurriedly informed me that Celeste, my 12-year-old daughter, was in the emergency department of the Children’s Hospital in London, Ontario. “Celeste has to have emergency neuro [brain] surgery tonight.”
Celeste had been having bad headaches. We had a doctor’s appointment coming, but that morning she started developing double vision. Michelle, a neurology resident, took Celeste to see her doctor that day. He immediately sent Celeste over to the emergency department. They did a CAT scan and an MRI was scheduled. She was scheduled to go into surgery for 9:30 that night. When I arrived at the hospital a few hours before her surgery, her father broke the news that they had discovered a golf ball size tumour under her pineo gland, but they didn’t know if it was cancerous or benign. The surgery would relieve the pressure building up on her brain, causing the headaches and double vision, and hopefully they could get a sample to run a biopsy. They hadn’t told Celeste yet, because they didn’t want to worry her until they knew exactly what was going on.
I was emotionally exhausted before I even stepped into her room, yet adrenaline and focusing on what needed to be done kept me marching on. Armed with her Pooh Bear, blanket, and Winnie the Pooh movie, Celeste waited for her surgery. Looking back, I don’t know how I was so strong; watching them prepare my baby girl, and take her down that long foreboding corridor and into surgery. The wait in the cold, empty waiting room became the longest for 2 and a half hour wait of my life.
This became the beginning of our family’s journey in dealing with childhood cancer.
If you too are one of these families, who have received the heart wrenching news that your child has cancer, I hope that in reading this you too can learn and implement the tools we used in order to cope through this difficult and tiring time.
The first thing you need to remember is that you are not alone.
Minutes after I received that call from Michelle, I was back on the phone, looking to family, friends and members of our church for help. So many arrangements had to made; someone to care for my youngest son, only 6 years old, a place for my husband to stay overnight near the hospital while I camped out in Celeste’s room. I knew you don’t go home right away after brain surgery, but didn’t have any idea how long we would be there: Days? Weeks? I called to arrange for our Bishop to give Celeste a blessing. Could someone take me out shopping for food one day? I wouldn’t have a car and didn’t know where to find the nearest stores. Then came the requests for people to pray for Celeste. If I wasn’t comfortable asking for help for myself, I was certainly willing to ask on behalf of my daughter.
But the most wonderful thing was, that when I did ask for help, people were anxious to help in so many different ways. People are wonderful. Complete strangers opened their homes to us over the coming weeks, months and years. People want the opportunity to help and serve and love. It’s up to you to be courageous enough to ask. I call this “Reaching Out”.
Once the chaos settles down and you develop some sort of routine in the midst of all the appointments, scans, treatments, and hospital stays, you need to make sure that you take small moments for yourself. In order to help your loved one, you need to be at your best; physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. There will be sleepless nights, emotions that run high, huge decisions to be made, and your beliefs about God, the universe, and the purpose of life will surface. You need to take time for yourself or your own fountain will run dry. Make sure that you have someone to talk to, or that someone can spell you off so you can go for a walk or take a much needed nap. Do something to distract your mind. Take a few minutes every day to meditate and quiet those endless worrying thoughts.
Lastly, look for the miracles. In the midst of every tragedy and difficulty there are small miracles that surface. I had a friend drive all the way to the hospital just to pick up and do my laundry for me. People who actions, turn them into angels, during your darkest hours. She was my angel that day. Some days the miracles will be that blood counts are better than yesterday or the tumour has shrunk. Celebrate each one of them, as if they are the greatest milestone that has ever been achieved!
I hope that all together these truths can help you cope with supporting your loved one with cancer, just as they helped me. In our book “Two Mothers One Prayer: Facing your child’s cancer with Hope, Strength and Courage” I share even more insights that I believe can help you in the journey ahead. In it, Laurie and I, share our story of friendship and inspiration, of struggles and miracles, of joy and sadness, and of love and loss, which may comfort and uplift you. I would invite you to order a copy for yourself, or to share with another family whose child is currently battling cancer, and that they too may find hope, strength and courage during this difficult time.
Laura Lane helps parents cope with the diagnosis of their child with cancer or other illness so that they can face each day with hope, strength and courage. Laura lost her own 14 year old daughter to cancer in 2013, published a book “Two Mothers, One Prayer: Facing your child’s cancer with Hope, Strength and Courage” to help parents cope when their child is diagnosed with cancer and has established herself as a spiritual growth and development expert, sharing with her clients and audiences her own story of losing her mother and 7 year sister in a car accident that only she survived at age 9. In her spare time Laura loves speaking, training and teaching about how to find peace and divine perspective through difficult life circumstances.
To find out more, grab her free chapter of “Two Mothers One Prayer: Facing your Child’s Cancer with Hope, Strength and Courage” at www.lauralane.ca/freechapterTMOP