The tests were more or less done, the stage was decided – stage 2A – and chemotherapy was about to start. Stage 2A means two or more groups of lymph nodes are affected on one side of the diaphragm. The ‘A’ is that she had no other symptoms like a fever, night sweats or weight loss. That was something to be grateful for – she was in the early stage of the cancer.
For Hodgkin lymphoma one of the most common chemotherapy treatment schedules is ABVD (Doxorubicin, bleomysin, vincristine and dacarbazine). As with most cancer treatments there are side effects: possible infertility, inevitable loss of hair, sore mouth, the lining of the stomach that will get thin, aching jaw, aching body, numbness in the fingertips, the endless tiredness, et cetera, et cetera…. Chemotherapy interrupts the way cancer cells grow and divide, but the bad part is that they also affect normal cells.
Her chemotherapy will last six months and treatment is every second Friday.
The first time we walked into the day ward I had to swallow the panic in my throat and force myself not to turn around and flee with my daughter. I had to be brave. If she could do it, why would I complain? I could see the people seated looking from me to my daughter trying to figure out who is the one with the cancer. Around us the youngest person receiving treatment was in their 30’s with mostly much older people seated. And then their almost gasp when my daughter went to sit in a chair to get the treatment. She is at that age where she is just too old for a children’s ward.
I remember at the first chemo my daughter’s nervous call from the bathroom because she couldn’t give the nurse a urine sample despite the litres of water she had drank at home. That made us giggle a bit.
Sometimes when I think about what she must be going through I feel literally sick. But on the other hand when you live through things like this, it does put life in perspective. Little things that would have upset me previously are now not even worth thinking about. The not perfect clean house or the peeling paint or the weeds coming through is not that important anymore. Maybe you try and live a bit more deliberately. What is really difficult though, is to see my daughter maturing so much quicker. Suddenly she doesn’t complain about teenage stuff anymore and suddenly I want her to complain about make-up, about boys, about not having any cool clothes. Because I don’t want her to suffer this horrible sickness and battle with tiredness, with hair falling out, with a sore mouth. She is suffering at a level far deeper than any teenager should.
When we found out about the cancer I was constantly revisiting the times before we found out to try and remember if I had missed any signs. Had I missed some vital signs that could have given me an indication something was seriously wrong with my daughter? Was she more tired than usual and had I not noticed? Were there any other signs? Why didn’t I see the lump on the side of her neck before we actually saw it? Why didn’t I pick up on other signs, other irritations? My mind went round and round in circles. As a mother you feel guilty, you feel helpless; you want to make it better, you want to resolve it. In the end you can’t.
What keeps me going: I know God is in control and if I cannot see His hand, I have to trust His heart. I have to cling to this.