Before that crisp fall day in 2009, we were aware of cancer, and like many people, had endured seeing a relative or friend battling a cancer diagnosis. However, we had no perspective on childhood cancer. At that time, we were wide eyed and naïve to the road ahead for our son and our family. The decisions to make are immediate and can include: What treatment program is best? Do we need to move to be closer to a hospital or treatment center? Who will leave their job? Can you survive on one income? We were so grateful to be introduced to so many wonderful organizations who provided us help and assistance during this tremendously stressful time.
Treatment for ALL consists of three parts: induction, consolidation and maintenance. Without going into too much detail; the goal of the first 30 days of treatment is to get rid of as many ALL cells as possible and to reach remission. Consolidation consists of 4 to 6 months of additional chemotherapy. The final phase, maintenance, is typically two or three years and consists of bi-weekly visits for either blood checks, chemotherapy or spinal taps. We are very fortunate because Colin willingly took his daily oral chemotherapy which consisted of 2 oral chemotherapy drugs, steroids and pneumonia prevention.
The cure rate for ALL, which is approx 80%, is considered one of the success stories of childhood cancer treatment. A child is considered “cured” if they remain in remission 5 yrs after diagnosis. Children continue to be monitored long after treatment to identify and treat many of the possible side effects, both physical and emotional, from the toll treatment can take on their little bodies.
As we looked around the clinic yesterday, we realized we are no longer the innocent and naïve family we were just a few short years ago. We do not see childhood cancer the same. We have become stronger, thanks to our son. We have become better parents, thanks to our son. And most importantly, we enjoy and treasure life more thanks to lessons learned from our brave little boy.
We now see families entering clinic for the first time, and recognize the wide eyed stare and the initial stress they are feeling. We now, just as others did for us, welcome these families into our “cancer family” and offer support, hope and guidance as they join us in this unique and less-traveled path.
Lastly, we’d like to share something that we came across on Facebook. While the auther is unknown, the perspective is right on:
Children ride tricycles in the hallway not in the park.
Nurses and doctors are their new family.
Their laughter can make a heart melt!
Their strength will make a grown person cry!
Their strength and courage helps you cope.
If you’ve ever seen a child fight cancer, it will change your life forever!!
To read more about Colin’s journey click here.
Heather & Michael Westbrook
Photos compliments of Carrie Weeks Photography