We turned out the lights and laid silent in the dim of the night.
“Imagine if someone told us that one of our babies had cancer.”
My words slicing through the quiet room.
“Doesn’t that seem scary?”
I couldn’t quite grasp what I was getting at.
Our (at the time) one and a half year old identical twin daughter, Mila, was diagnosed with a rare childhood cancer called Embryonal Rhabdomyosarcoma in January 2016. Her treatment plan consisted of a 12 month span of weekly aggressive chemotherapy sessions. It was reduced to 6 months after the close of a recent study. Thank you science and discovery.
This past week, Mila completed her treatment. I was taking her to Boston Children’s Hospital every Wednesday for the past 6 months. The last two Wednesdays displayed a clear PET scan and the removal of her port.
As we lay in bed I thought about the lack of work that had to be done in preparation for a long day in clinic. “She actually had cancer…” I thought to myself. “That’s fucking scary.”
I knew she did as we were going through the motions of getting this dreaded disease out of her body. We remained calm and just moved forward with our protocol to defeat this.
I discovered a large tumor right below Mila’s right hip during a routine trip to tubby time. The moment I saw it I knew from that dreaded pit in my stomach that something in the course of our lives just changed and it wasn’t for the better.
It was a few short days later that Mila’s Oncologist confirmed cancer. I immediately began to worry that her twin sister would soon follow suite. I mean, they are identical. They were one egg. How does something like this happen to one and not the other?
A genetic test later proved that this was not developed from a genetic strand. Mila’s identical twin, Ava, had the same slim chance as any other healthy kid to develop a cancer and that she was not destined this disease. That certainly did not, nor does not, stop me from checking and scanning Ava on a regular basis.
As acquaintances were informed of her diagnosis throughout her treatment we actually felt bad delivering the unfortunate news. We felt bad for the person that had to receive and respond to this information. We knew the thought to them was unimaginable. They told us that. They also could not fathom going through this. They told us that too.
My husband and I would try to stay ahead of their worry. We would try to stay ahead of them imagining the thought. And we did this with a smile and a supporting touch to the arm.
“No worries, she is doing wonderful. She is battling this and winning. She will be OK.” We turned into the consolers in what felt to be an awkward and uncomfortable situation.
We did, however, feel confident. That wasn’t a lie. It’s all we could feel. And Mila, 6 months later, did come out of this bumpy road cancer free.
So as we lay in silence on this Tuesday night, relieved that Mila was not going to get poison (what is actually the cure.. chemo) pumped into her veins the following day, I started to wonder.
What if someone told us one of our babies had cancer?
I felt devastated at the thought. Like it was new news.
So I asked my husband, “What if someone told us one of our babies had cancer?”
He responded. Not surprised by the question.
“I have not wrapped my head around the first time someone told us one of our babies DID have cancer.”
I guess I did not entirely wrap my head around it either. I guess I remained optimistic with the comfort of a blind eye disabling me to feel the acceptance of the diagnosis. And to be realistic there wasn’t time to cope with the news of cancer. There was only time to cure it.
So I proceed now with no “what-if’s.” But with the comfort of knowing that with any “what-evers” that come our way they will be conquered. Together. As a family. With strength. With love. And a healthy dose of blindness.