Liam Bachelder, 5 years old
At first it seemed like our son, Liam, had a simple cold until he developed a fever that would not go away. Having given birth to our second son only two weeks earlier, I kept hoping he would get better so we could avoid going to the doctor. However, when he became extremely lethargic and wouldn’t eat, it was obvious he needed medical attention.
Our family doctor took one look at my little boy and knew it was something serious. By this time Liam’s stomach was distended from an enlarged liver and spleen (due to the cancer cells) and his face had lost all color (his hemoglobin was dangerously low). We were told to go home, pack some clothes and head to the Children’s Hospital. They would most certainly admit him.
I called my mom, as I packed a bag for my son and husband, who would be the one staying overnight at the hospital. I remember being in tears and so scared about what could possibly be wrong and feeling guilty that I hadn’t taken him to the doctor sooner. Cancer never once entered my mind as a possibility.
Within minutes of our arrival at the ER, they began blood tests, urine tests, and even x-rays. Until this time Liam had seemed so healthy and it was heartbreaking to watch him being poked and prodded. And he was far too sick to even protest
In only a few short hours the ER doctor came in to tell us that it was Leukemia but they couldn’t say for sure what kind until further testing was done. To say we were stunned was an understatement. We were devastated and terrified, my only clear thought as my mind tried to grasp the news was, “Is my little boy going to die?” I knew so little about Leukemia, only what I had seen in movies, really. I had visions of him losing his hair (he never did), losing weight (nope), and throwing up from the chemo (which did happen a few times). My very vivid imagination was going full speed.
After the initial stress and fear of not knowing what we were dealing with, being told for sure that he had Low Risk Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia a few days later, was an immense relief. His chances of survival and a full recovery were something like 97%. While it may seem strange to say, we felt lucky compared to many of the other families we’ve come to know. His course of treatment did not include radiation or some of the other hardcore medications that can have their own devastating effects on little bodies.
Even with such a hopeful prognosis, we knew we could not face this alone. As soon as we were able, we reached out to our church and the community responded immediately to help our family. Friends and strangers provided support in many ways. The fear and anger of Liam’s diagnosis became smaller and more manageable knowing we were not carrying the burden alone.
That first night at the hospital, my heart shattered. But I had to put it back together again for my children and my husband and for myself. I was dealing with exhaustion, as a new mom, and now caring for a sick child. I had feelings of fear, anger, even guilt as I had to leave my husband and Liam every night during his admissions. It took a toll on me mentally and I still struggle with anxiety as a result.
During the last 2 ½ years Liam has been amazing. There was a time when he was done with all of the pokes. He told me that he didn’t want them anymore and I felt like a traitor when I had to physically hold him down, while he screamed, so the nurses could do their job. Being the little hero he is, he worked it out over time and found his courage. He is an inspiration.
I’m so happy to tell you that March 3rd will be our very last day of treatment. Liam is now 5 years old and he beat cancer thanks to all of the research and dedication of those who work in the Pediatric Oncology field.
So from here, we take life as it comes. When I find myself complaining out loud or in my own head about our challenges I remind myself that there are other families dealing with so much more. I also remind myself that we are fully capable of facing any challenge now.
I stand here with a heart full of gratitude. I am grateful for the support of family, friends and strangers. Grateful for my heroic son who is strong and resilient. I am grateful for our care team (I love them) and especially grateful for my husband who has been right beside me through all of this. Most of all, I am grateful to God whose power we felt countless times and whose love sustains and heals us.