Hand Holding

The unfamiliar, heart wrenching scream of a toddler becomes louder as her mum who is holding her approaches the waiting room. It’s an adorable little Asian girl wearing a pink hoodie, coral tights with a smiley face on her bottom and frills around the cuffs. She wears Dora shoes and is squinting her eyes together, squeezing out tears!
“Oh, what’s wrong, sweetheart,” I ask and her Mum just smiles at me registering kindness in my voice with a nod! Then it becomes obvious to me. She doesn’t want to be put down, she doesn’t want to walk. She wants to be held close to her mummy. Two lanky teenage boys are beside her, trying to help but it’s clear that she only wants her mother.
“Oh,” Sam says. “She’s so beautiful. She reminds me of Max.” (who Sam used to nanny).

I’ve been thinking of babies all day so it’s surprising to see one in 12a. Amongst other things, today is the day that Sam has her zoladex needle. She has this every month. It’s a huge needle that injects a pellet into Sams tummy. It’s an experiment that will hopefully preserve and protect Sam’s ovaries until she finishes her chemotherapy treatment.

There is a theory about ovary preservation that the doctors have developed. Well, it’s an observation really! The studies of prepubesant girls with Leukaemia found that they got their periods at the end of chemo treatment but girls already in puberty did not get their periods back. So the idea is to put the period on hold throughout treatment and to stop the body from ovulating. The doctors hope that through this procedure Sam will be able to produce a period at the end of treatment.

Today in gynacology we reflected on those first two days here. What a whirlwind of information we were caught up in. I can hardly believe that I didn’t register that my daughter was being tested for Leukaemia. I didn’t think it when my GP rang me at work and told me to go and drive Sam to ER, that her counts were low, that he’d called already and they were expecting us. I didn’t register when we signed the risk forms for a blood transfusion, or when they asked about headaches or examined her back. I didn’t register when they asked Sam three times that day whether she had siblings or even when they did that very first bone marrow biopsy.

Despite the fact I’ve read ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ by Jodi Piccoult, I didn’t register nor even for a moment consider, that my daughter might have Leukaemia.

I was planning for 2009 to be a good year. I thought Sam might have a blood transfusion and be sent home (since her iron was low, HB was 26 on arrival) but I never suspected anything as sinister as Cancer.

In hospital today Sam and I reflected back to that first day when she was told by the doctor that…

“1. She has ALL Leukaemia
2. Without treatment she would be dead in 3 months, with treatment she has a 60% chance of survival,
3. That she would be unlikely to have any children
…Any questions?”

It had been that blunt.

The next day the gynecologist came to visit to talk about the possible options to preserve the hope that Sam would one day be able to have babies. The day after that Sam agreed to do everything in her power to make that possible. That was when she started the ‘Zoladex’ needle.

We laughed with Jayne today recalling the events of the last three months. Jayne is kind and tries to find an unscarred piece of flesh to inject the needle. Sam has been receiving needles everyday for the last 7 days to increase her white blood count, so her tummy and her arms have been jabbed all over. Sam squeezes my hand and I am so proud to be the one whose hand she wants to squeeze more than anyone else’s. As horrible as this all is, we are in it together. Our bond is tight. I pray over my grandchildren as I squeeze back reminding her of how incredibly brave she is.

The voice of the little Asian girl is the sound of a promise. I am anticipating the day, in years to come when a similar scream comes down the corridors of my house. Perhaps Sam will be going away for the weekend with her husband and her baby will want Sam above anything else. This is the joy and frustration of motherhood. To be the ONLY one who can make it okay.

As I overhear the nurse, I discover the CNC is about to give this sweet Asian mum ‘Ara C (Cytarabine).’ I say to Sam, “She’s having Ara C,” and Sam looks at me with compassionate eyes. “The vomiting chemo,” Sam says and we both feel the weight of what this could mean for the family in front of us. The older boy takes the toddler but the screaming gets louder and she begins to kick his shins. “Mumma, Mumma!” I wonder if the word is the same in every language?

When the mum returns from the treatment room she laughs and takes her daughter to her lap and holds her close. I fossick in my bag for a treat for the little girl. The mum does not speak English and her son says, “It’s okay.” I ask him, “Do you have anyone to help you at home?” And he tells me, with his hands mostly that, “ We have each other.” I am not sure if I am being understood but I feel such compassion that my throat has tight. I am wondering how they will cope, this young family looking after their mum in a foreign land.

Dr Greenwood is his cranky self. I present the blood results on a sheet of A4 rejoicing that all her counts are up. He is cynical. “Of course they are, she’s been having GCSF. What we need is for Sam’s counts to go up by themselves.”

He glances over Sam’s chest where a rash has developed. He is clearly uninterested and tells us to see Yvonne before we go to see what it might be. He tells us to go and schedule a bone marrow biopsy for next Monday and informs me he won’t be here. “Now, these are the things that you need to know from the blood results before the procedure goes ahead.” I write down everything he says suddenly feeling like a medical student responsible to get it right because my daughter’s life depends on it. I’m amazed of how much responsibility we carry for Sam’s treatment. I am thankful I speak English and have a fairly good ability to grasp all that is going on.

Unscathed by his negativity Sam and I are rejoicing.” We are going to ‘Presence’.” (C3 Church conference at Darling Harbour) Reid and Grant are on their way so we can drive to hospital together. We are going to worship God, to hear Pastor Phil speak. It’s what we have been waiting for all week. Just to be in God’s presence with a crowd of people knowing her counts are high enough to make it ‘safe.’

Paul writes (Message Version),ROMANS 8:15-18

“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life.

It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with childlike faith.

“What’s next, Papa?”

God ‘s spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are.

We know who He is and we know who we are: Father and children.

And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us-

an unbelievable inheritance!

We go through exactly what Christ goes through.

If we go through hard times with him,

then we’re certainly going to go through good times with him!”

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3 Comments

Filed under christian parenting, Life

3 responses to “Hand Holding

  1. sue

    love reading your blog! xx

  2. Selina

    hello Clare,
    Thanks for sharing from your heart, these blogs are an eyeopener. i am moved to tears for you and Sam for the procedures and protocol of treatment life. And stirred to pray for Sam and the family each time you blog.
    You are an incredible mother, who has passed on beauty, faith and strength to your girls. Sam is sooo beautiful and has something really special on her life.
    I hope today is one of the better days.
    Love Sel x

  3. Wow… Clare, found this via Pam and Twitter. Your writing is outstanding (so glad I get to see some of it after our very short writer’s group tenure) and both that and the journey you guys are on moved me to tears.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Dee

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