In the late fall of 2014, we were approaching Thanksgiving and Christmas with the usual excited anticipation of our favorite time of the year. Little did we know that our son would soon be spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the hospital recovering from surgery and getting his first dose of chemotherapy to treat an aggressive form of bone cancer called Osteosarcoma.
It began as a simple nosebleed.
During a visit to Disneyland with his grandmother, he had one simple nosebleed. His grandmother and I attributed it to the dry November weather. I thought it was a little odd since he didn’t get nosebleeds very often, but I knew it was common in kids, so I didn’t have cause for concern. Four days later, he would get another nose bleed, and four days after that another and another. The nosebleed, while not gushing, stayed sort of inside his nostril.
I knew after the 3rd nosebleed that something wasn’t right and I needed to follow up. It wasn’t until the nosebleed just sort took up residence in his nostril that I took him to urgent care. They didn’t see anything too alarming and recommended Luke see his PCP. The following day, his primary care doctor also didn’t think too much of it, but I have never been so thankful to have been referred to a specialist.
That’s when the doctor found the mass.
Luke was referred to an ENT specialist who discovered a mass inside his upper sinus. He needed a CT scan to find out what exactly was going on. How big was it? Was it pushing on anything vital? I remember my mom calling and my recounting everything that needed to happen. But I don’t remember being overly worried. I remember being vigilant to stay on top of whatever was going on. Watching for any more nosebleeds or symptoms.
He would have no other symptoms other than the nosebleed.
He didn’t have pain. There were no headaches. A superficial blood clot had formed inside his nose and the mass (no one was calling a tumor yet) would push on it, causing it to descend into his nostril. Sometimes, when I think about it now, I thank God for that little blood clot. It was a visible symptom that I could be thinking about, dealing with, and alleviating. And it was a constant reminder that I was not in control and to surrender everything to God.
The CT scan showed a mass the size of a pinky finger resting horizontally behind the upper part of his nose (it touched his left sinus area, the tip of his left eye and the base of his skull. I only know the details because that’s what the doctors told us later. I refused to look at scan pictures. At that point, we didn’t know if it was benign or malignant. Oh, how I hate the word malignant.
When the doctor came into that stark, blank room and said, with the gentlest voice, that the mass was indeed malignant, I went into denial for about an hour. I kept thinking it wasn’t that bad. The surgeon would just remove the mass and that would be that. I was so wrong. Out in the lobby, My father-in-law had tears in his eyes. I blurted out loud “Why is everyone so sad?” and that’s when it started to slowly sink in…
We would be in this for the long haul.
We spent the next days and weeks preparing for one of the hardest battles any child should ever have to endure. It got so much harder before it got better – A total of 10 months of treatment, doctors visits, scans, tests, procedures, chemotherapy, and hospital stays. But there was and still is so much hope. Hope is a balm to the soul. I am so pleased to tell you that Luke is off treatment and “cancer free” now. It has been almost one year since his final chemotherapy treatment! I pray I never take these days for granted.
Michelle Sybert is the author behind the blog “Be Brave, Keep Going,” a family lifestyle blog dedicated to helping parents and children live with bravery as they encounter their daily lives while celebrating and savoring every sweet moment together. Michelle herself is a 10-year uterine cancer survivor. Her son, now 10, is currently in remission from pediatric Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and Li-Fraumeni Syndrome (a rare genetic mutation that increases a person’s lifetime risk for multiple cancers).
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