We began yesterday morning getting ready for a trip to GR for "staging" for radiation treatments. Martha and Henri were heading off to the house of some family friends for a day of fun and swimming in a backyard pool. Chloe was quite upset that she couldn't go and swim as well. After I left to drop M and H off, Christa found Chloe sitting on a swing crying. As Christa described it, she was crying adult tears, not kid tears, as it wasn't a loud crying. She wanted to go swim and to have fun, but knew she couldn't. Sometimes one wonders how much a four year old understands, but I'm beginning to think that Chloe understands more than we know...
Over the weekend, we had been lulled into a false sense that nothing was really wrong. The thought of returning to this life-of-dealing-with-cancer was rather overwhelming to both Christa and I. This feeling was made worse shortly after arriving at the cancer center when we had to sign our second consent form of the day (it feels like we have signed a ton of these). The nurse had brought us into a sterile-looking area with a hospital bed and chairs. She then began rattling off a list of awful sounding side effects that would be possible with radiation treatments. Christa and I made eye contact a few times while she was reading. In my head I actually asked myself the question, which is worse, the cancer or these side effects? We did not make the nurse's morning when we said that we needed to talk to Chloe's radiation doctor before signing the consent as she could not continue getting anything ready until she had our signature. The doctor came down to see us quite quickly and reassured us that with the low dose of radiation that Chloe would be getting the side effects would be quite minor. In the meantime, the pediatric sedation team had arrived, along with a research doctor from DeVos, and a few nurses as well. I think the crowd was beginning to freak Chloe out a bit.
One thing I don't think I've written about is Chloe's port. As a part of her surgery, Chloe had an implantable port placed under her skin, below her right collarbone. It is connected directly to into an artery leading to her heart so that she can receive medications and chemo treatments easily. With this type of port, Chloe can go swimming or take a bath once 24 hours have passed since the last "access." Before leaving our house yesterday we put some numbing cream and a patch of Press-N-Seal over it. When it came time for the sedation team to access it in order to give her the sedation meds we had Chloe look to the side for a minute (thank you interactive storybooks on my school iPad!) and they poked right into it. Chloe didn't flinch! I asked her if she felt anything, she said no. This is such a blessing as in the hospital she had to have three IVs placed before her surgery and these were not pleasant experiences.
Once her port had been accessed again, they took Chloe (and Christa) for a ride on the hospital bed down the hall to the room where the staging would take place. The gave her the "sleeping medicine" and she was out within ten seconds. Before surgery Chloe was still awake when we left her and we were upset with her crying. I would take seeing her cry over seeing her under the effects of sedation. I'm not going to be able to get that picture out of my mind for some time.
Christa and I headed out to the waiting room. We had each brought a number of things to work on as we were originally told that it would be a long wait. However, we both sat there, feeling anxious and a little fearful, not knowing what to do. I remembered that I had a new voicemail, but there was no service in the building so I headed out to the main lobby to make sure that it wasn't a message concerning Martha or Henri. A few seconds into listening to the message, an old friend from Minnesota called. We hadn't spoken since this all began, so the call was rather emotional, yet it was exactly what I needed right then. God was with us. By the time I got back in, Chloe was already out of the treatment room and was ready to wake up.
It took us a while to get her to wake up from her meds induced sleep, but she woke up with a huge smile on her face. She was surprised to see that her t-shirt was back on, the needle was out of her port, and she had a new Hello Kitty bandaid in its place. We had been prepped that balance and coordination would be an issue for a while and as she sat up, she realized how funny it was to feel the effects of the medication. She would lean way back and someone would grab her as she would say "wwhhooaaaa" with a huge grin. Her speech was slurred as well as she told the sedation doctor "thanks for the ride" with the same effect as someone who has had a few too many. The effects lasted the next 15-30 minutes and brought a lot of needed humor and laughs to the three of us after our stressful morning.
We wrapped up the morning with a trip to the Wealthy Street bakery for lunch (thanks, poker guys!) and then on to the Jersey Junction where we met Christa's mom for an impromptu ice cream treat. The morning had started off with so much anxiety and fear and was totally and completely redeemed in the end. Another faith lesson in our journey...