Watson has always been such a happy go lucky kid! He loved everyone and just about everything! That all changed when he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia on February 24th 2016.
The fall before Watson had started going to day care,so I could finally have time to finish my college degree. It seemed like every other week he would come home with some kind of "cold". We would always take him to his pediatrician but everything always came back normal for a kid his age in daycare. The beginning of the year his colds were getting worse but again we thought well he's in daycare and this time of year everyone is sick so we didn't think much of it. The week before his diagnosis we went to the Doctor again because his lymph nodes were swollen, once again he was diagnosed with a cold and it would take time to resolve on its own. Over the next few days his lymph nodes in his neck became the size of ping pong balls, my husband kept insisting I take him back so I finally gave in and we were able to actually see our primary pediatrician. We weren't there long before she told me we needed to leave her office immediately and go straight to Vanderbilt for testing because "he might have leukemia or it could nothing at all". From that point I felt like I was a mindless zombie just going through the motions; calling my husband, sending a quick text to my family giving them the gist of what's going on, getting ahold of my in laws so they could watch our youngest while we went to the ER. I was driving Watson to Vanderbilt alone where the nurses and doctors were already waiting on us to arrive. The whole time I was trying to remind my self it could be nothing but, I felt sick to my stomach the moment she udder the words leukemia ... I already knew my baby cancer.
At the hospital within an hour of being there for testing an oncologist came into our room and confirmed our worst nightmare. We had to hold it together and be strong for our 2 1/2 year old who had no idea his entire world was being flipped upside down. I vividly remember letting one single tear fall and Watson looking at me and said "whats wrong mommy?" My heart shattered in a million pieces.
We then informed all of our family and close friends. We tried to soak in all this information and how our life would be from that point on.
Watson's specific type/subtype of cancer effects about 200 children per year, statistically he had about a 50% chance of surviving. Since his type was very aggressive and they estimated he already had the leukemia for a few months his treatment started immediately. By that I mean we went in to the hospital around 8 pm on a Wednesday night and he received his Hickman port, feeding tube, and first round of chemo Friday morning at 7 am. Ideally his treatment would last 6 months with the majority of that spent at the hospital. (Total we got to spend 2 1/2 weeks at our own house out of the entire 6 months)
Once treatment started and were able to truly wrap our minds around the truth, we just did what we had to do. My husband took medical leave from his job, our 6 month old bounced from house to house weekly. And we stayed with Watson while he received chemotherapy multiple times a day. The first couple of treatments he did really well considering all the side effects, he loved running the halls all hours of the night, talking to his nurses, and playing with new friends like himself in the playroom. It amazed us how brave and resilient he was considering he was going through something harder than most people will ever have to face within their life time.
His third round of chemotherapy started off rougher than the others had, that's when we learned that he had a secondary fungal infection from the chemo drugs them self, which then also lead to pneumonia. He ended up in the ICU, where his doctors told us to stay by his side, they would never tell his this was the end but the way they said things and went about doing things indicated otherwise. Somehow by the grace of God, wishing on stars, begging and pleading with universe, our son pulled through. The remainder of his treatments were absolutely miserable. He was terrified of everyone and everything, 25 tubes and lines and monitors hooked up at one time, he could barely move himself, he could not eat or drink, sleep was non existent, none of us were allowed to leave the room, visitors were restricted and this list goes on and on. The last part of our hospital stay was one big jumbled blur of repetition see doctors, get vitals, take medicine, try to sleep, medicines again, try to sleep, see physical therapists, run tests... It felt like this hamster wheel we were stuck on was never going to stop until finally one day it did.
We're were cleared to go home after 2 1/2 months of room confinement, Watson was able to finish recovering at home until his next bone marrow biopsy. We discovered that despite the ICU setback his cancer responded exactly as the oncologist had hoped and Watson was in remission.
We are now 6 months post treatment and to this day he is still in remission, and goes for check ins monthly. I can't help but get a knot in my stomach before every appointment, I doubt that feeling and worry will ever go away.
We are still trying to figure out our new "normal" outside the walls of the hospital. The more I sit down and think about how crazy the last year of our life has been, all I think about is how AWESOME my son is.
Along the road we have learned many things: How gracious strangers can be, how time is precious, how hard life can really be, how strong children are, how wonderful having a great network is, how to not worry about little things, and most importantly that these kids with cancer, MY SON, deserve more out of life!
We still have battles and a long road ahead of us but I am thankful for everyday I get to hug, kiss, hold and play with my cancer warrior!
I could go on for hours, but I think I am just going to end with a quote that I truly agree with "sometimes super heroes reside in the hearts of small children fighting big battles!"
(Written by Watson's mom)