Wednesday, August 22, 2018

We made it

A few months ago, Peter and his parents were outside my door because Peter was sick, he had significant swelling of the nodes in his neck and his blood counts were all wrong.  Tests revealed that he had Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia and so I had to have a difficult conversation with him and his parents about him having leukemia and our limited abilities to help him.  I outlined what we could offer and gave them the choice of trying treatment or not.  They elected to give it a try.

The last 3 months have been very difficult, more than I know they imagined.  Despite doing this for over 10 years, I just haven't figured out how to get a family/patient to really understand what I mean by cancer and chemotherapy.  In some ways it boils down to, if I do nothing, your son will die, if I try and help him with chemotherapy - there is a good chance he will die from the medicine that is trying to help him, and if he somehow survives the medicine that is trying to help him by almost killing him, then there is a very good chance that he will still die from the cancer, but just hopefully a year or more later.

When I set out to offer chemotherapy to a patient, I know I am not curing them of any cancer, but I hope and pray that I might be able to give them meaningful time with family and friends that otherwise would have been robbed by the cancer.  To many that is all they want too, that is what Peter and his parents wanted - more time.

Peter is the last of 5 boys and is loved by his parents, as evidenced by their biweekly visits to our hospital for the past 3 months, and their leaving his brothers with other family members so they can be closer to the hospital to look after Peter.  There was a point, where I thought the medicine was going to be too strong for his body and was going to rob him of a chance to have some more time on this ground, but thankfully he pulled through.  There were many conversations with his parents and him about their desire to keep going or to stop, but they hung in there.

We aren't done yet, but we have done weekly chemo for the past 3 months, and he been a trooper as he has lost his hair, had a port placed, cried with all the injections and blood draws, and yet when he sees me each week he smiles, which makes me smile.  He always asks for a rubber glove to take home so he can make a balloon with it - it is hard not to meet his request knowing what he faces each day.

Pray for him and his parents, as they once again are facing a period of decision, where they decide how much more treatment to do, if any.  We hope to know how his leukemia responds to the chemo after a month's time.  If we don't find much evidence of it, we will all be celebrating Peter's renewed time on this ground, and if we do, tears will be shed, knowing the time on this ground is not as long as we want it to be.