Hazel has leukemia.
I have said or typed those words a hundred times today, and still, when I see them, a sob wants to burst out of my mouth. My teeth and lips are slippery with the effort of keeping those sobs in. My mind screams at the unreality. My beautiful daughter, my dancer, my smiler, my warm-hearted, open, social, verbal Hazel-Basil … her body is betraying her. Deep in the dark of her bones, cells race to divide and to divide and to divide, evading her defenses, pushing out the healthy cells, taking over the marrow in a violent and rapid coup.
Hazel has leukemia.
How did it happen? How did I know? What were her symptoms? What is the plan? I feel as if I have answered those questions since time began, even though I’ve only known about her illness for 8 hours.
Two or three weeks ago, Hazel’s behavior changed. She seemed irritable, restless, prone to fighting with her sister. She became absolutely obsessed with germs. She wouldn’t eat from a fork that touched the table, wear a jacket that touched the floor, use a toothbrush that fell from the counter, even accept a hug from her beloved Nana, because Nana touched some dirty rocks.
She stopped smiling as much. She complained here and there of not feeling “good,” of abdominal pain, and throat pain. She was never very specific. I didn’t notice extreme lethargy. There were no unexplained bruises or bleeding.
I took her to the doctor, because I thought we might need referral to a psychiatrist to figure out the OCD. And, whenever a child shows weird behavior, a basic workup is indicated to rule out a medical problem.
Hazel went in on Tuesday. The bloodwork was submitted late Tuesday night. On Wednesday, I called the doctor’s office and was told that they would send it over for review by the attending pediatrician (not Hazel’s regular doctor). They called back. Everything was normal. No concerns.
Friday, the nurse called again, and reiterated that the bloodwork was normal. They were not worried. I was instructed to finish a course of empirical antibiotics in case of some weird bacterial infection and follow up in a week.
Sunday morning, my phone was on do not disturb, yet it rang. I ignored it but then rolled over to look. I saw a missed text message from a number that I didn’t recognize and a voicemail.
It was Hazel’s pediatrician. In a halting voice, she told me that there were some abnormalities that hadn’t been apparent on her basic CBC results. At the bottom, there were notes that were overlooked. These notes indicated that Hazel had a large percentage of unknown cells circulating.
As soon as she said the word, I knew. Dogs and cats aren’t much different than people in many ways. I asked her, “are you telling me that she has leukemia?”
Her doctor hedged and only said, “I’m worried.” I asked on a scale of 1-10, how worried are you. She said an 8. To me, a doctor saying an 8 means they are truly saying a 10. She instructed us to take her to the hospital in the hopes that it was just a terrible lab error.
It was not.
After undergoing a bone marrow aspirate this morning at the hands of 2 doctors that treated our beautiful baby James, we have a diagnosis.
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
The road ahead is long. It is dark. I cannot foresee the twists and turns that are going to come. I am not healed from the loss of our beloved James. I was starting to have good days, I felt gratitude to be alive, and now…I am staring down the barrel of watching my daughter endure treatment that will poison her body to save it.
Tomorrow, at 130pm, she will go into surgery to receive an IV port. She will have a spinal tap. They will then inject chemotherapy into her central nervous system. After she wakes up, they will put more chemotherapy into her IV port.
Please, at 130pm tomorrow, remember my sweet, beautiful, kind, empathetic Hazel. She has the whole pediatric unit wrapped around her finger already.
You are only supposed to have one GoFundMe in your lifetime, because that’s the maximum you should ever need such help, but with what is to come, here is our GFM. If you can help, please do. If you can’t…pray for us or send us your thoughts or just give me a hug next time you see me. And share this link with the world.
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