Another lousy painful and frightening bone marrow biopsy. Nick hates them. His Dad accompanies him and I’m extremely grateful for being released from that horror. The kids lie on their sides, curled up like a “C” giving the doctor clear access to the flat part of the hip in the lower back. An incision is made and then a stylet (type of drill) with a needle inside is screwed through the bone of the hip into the bone marrow cavity. Nick’s Dad has to hold him because the doctor is pushing the tool into his hip with enough force to slide him off the table. The stylet is removed and marrow is aspirated (removed) with the needle. The bone fragment is analyzed as well as the marrow for cancer cells. Gauze is applied with pressure to the wound – no stitches.
At the same time spinal fluid is removed with a lumbar puncture or “spinal tap” by a needle inserted into the spinal canal. Chemo is then pushed into Nick’s spinal fluid – get this – just in case. Leukemia can advance into the spinal fluid and then breach the membrane protecting the brain. This has happened to Charlotte’s little guy, two year old Nicky. She told me about the results of a scan and seeing clumps of leukemia cells in the area between her son’s brain and skull. A shunt was put in and chemo bathes that area.
They give the kids a drug called Midazolam. I’m told “it makes them forget.” It doesn’t make them not feel. The procedure is done in a room at the beginning of the ward and I can hear the crying down the hall. And Nick remembers because he has fear and that kills me.
I am in awe and so proud of the strength children have. Instead of sitting out the dance of life because they have cancer, they are dancing for all they are worth. The pain and fear was just a second ago but the procedure is over, so right now at this very minute, life is lived like it’s the first time, like it’s brand new, like they absolutely believe they are going to get better and go home.
The House is the only place to be while going through the hells of cancer and its treatment. The staff is knowledgeable because they have been in contact with hundreds of families with an endless exhibition of cancers. I’m shocked at the multitude of types of cancer there are. It can affect any cell – and what are we made up of but millions of cells.
Anne is our House Mom and available for a cup of coffee on the back porch if you need her. Peggy is warm and helps to run the office. Barb makes me laugh and also works as victim assistance for the Vancouver City Police. These women adore the kids and the feeling is mutual. Glen is the custodian. He is sweet and thoughtful and always smiling.
Anne has a suite downstairs in this massive, amazing, beautiful House, and when she goes off shift in the afternoon we are slowly meeting the many rotating afternoon and weekend volunteer staff. Dave L has a great sense of humor and goes beyond his volunteer position. He often comes into the hospital to visit the kids and in doing so has become a good friend of our family. He sits with Nick and watches TV or sends him into fits of laughter by telling outrageous stories. I get to sneak off for a coffee and a visit with Rosemary or Heather. These people are the blessings and silver lining of this storm cloud we are living under.
April 29, 1999