Have you ever watched your child suffer? Like, really suffer? I’m not talking about a scraped-knee, a stubbed-toe or even a broken heart. Those things hurt, don’t get me wrong, but moms can usually turn the tears into smiles with the mention of a popsicle or a shiny new toy.
Can you imagine a popsicle or a new toy not taking away your child’s’ pain?
Can you imagine carrying your three-year old into another round of chemotherapy or hearing their cries echo through the hospital waiting room as the get their umpteenth spinal-tap without anything to dull their pain?
Can you picture the nurses sobbing when they tell you they have drill into your child’s hip-bone a second time because the first time didn’t work?
Can you hear the cries turn into silence because they eventually are numb from the pain?
Can you hear the shrieks from your teenage daughter’s bedroom as she pulls clumps of blond hair from her comb and she watches her bare scalp appear? Tears pool around her swollen cheeks, puffy from high doses of steroids. She collapses into your arms, weak and angry.
Can you picture her sitting on the sidelines as her team cheers on the football team? You tell her she can’t share her water with her best friend of ten years because the risk of her getting a cold is too much to bear.
Can you imagine the frustration she feels when she misses another practice because she has to travel hundreds of miles for another round of chemotherapy?
I don’t want to imagine it either.
But what if you didn’t have a choice? My parents didn’t. They watched their only two children suffer a painful, lengthy and physically wrecking disease. It refuge over the bodies of the babies they once rocked to sleep. The babies that they held so close while praying simple prayers such as, ‘please allow my children to be brave and kind and make good choices.’ I guarantee they never prayed for our lives.
I was diagnosed with Leukemia (ALL) at the age of thirteen, TEN years after my older brother’s first diagnosis with ALL. My parents knew which drugs caused nausea, hair-loss, numbness, mouth-sores, headaches, weight-gain, weight loss, and even which caused mood swings. My parents weren’t just brave. They were warriors. They never let us know that they were hurting or that they were scared. But that’s what you do for your kids–you smile when underneath you are being torn to shreds. You put up a good fight. The best fight. Because the other option isn’t an option at all.
And you want to know the hardest part for me? The travel and time commitment. My parents drove me hours for treatment.
You see, in 2000, Northwest Arkansas didn’t have a Children’s Hospital. Now, there’s care close to home at Arkansas Children’s Lowell Clinic, soon to join Arkansas Children’s Northwest in Springdale when it opens in January 2018.
Does this mean that you’ll never have to travel to Little Rock for treatment? Maybe not entirely, but it does mean that when the chemotherapy causes allergic reactions or spinal headaches or severe vomiting, Arkansas Children’s Northwest will be equipped and trained to treat your child. It means that your child can be treated and return home the same day to visit friends, or sleep in their own bed. It means they may not have to miss their junior high football game. It means that when your child falls off the monkey bars and breaks her elbow or spikes a dangerously high fever in the middle of the night, you will have pediatric nurses, social workers, child-life specialists and doctors at your side making your treatment as enjoyable as possible. It means that of all the things that accompany a pediatric illness, where you child will receive care will not be among that list.
Interested in becoming part of the team at Arkansas Children’s? Apply here!