Two and a half weeks later, Atia’s chemo hiatus was finally over. After her third port access in a week, we learned that Atia’s blood counts had recovered, and she was able to resume chemotherapy; however, it wasn’t without collateral damage.
First, Atia was a wreck. The whole experience had traumatized her. She was especially distraught over the pain. Her port had been accessed so many times that the numbing ointment became ineffective; she felt every stick, burn and pull. The overuse of her port was evident in the black and blue bruising surrounding the area.
She cried. She screamed. She begged for mercy.
Second, her chemo dosages were severely decreased. Since this was the second time her counts had forced an extended suspension - based on the rules of the clinical trial - she was unable to resume at full dose. So, we would start slow and work our way back up to what she’d been taking before the disruption.
The episode also created cause for concern that Atia may be void a critical enzyme credited with breaking down chemo at a “normal” pace. It’s a very rare condition, but all along Atia’d been categorized as a “slow chemo processor”. It begged the question whether or not she was missing that key enzyme. If she was, we’d have to reassess the best way to proceed, as she might never be able to work her way back up to full dosage. But we wouldn’t know that until the test results were in.
In the meantime…
The beginning of October (2010) brought us Asher’s 1st birthday - such a wonderful occasion and the perfect distraction from all of Atia’s challenges.
Living in the city, we don’t have much space (we’re condo dwellers), and never is that more apparent than when planning for birthday parties. But being a true Chicagoan, I didn’t let that stop me from planning a great little shindig.
Though a bit unconventional, the party would take place outside in our concrete jungle (aka, driveway behind our building). We rented kiddie tables and chairs, hung orange and yellow paper lanterns from our balcony overhang and offered several creative activities, like painting papier-mâché pumpkins.
The kids had a blast and wore themselves out running up and down our inclined driveway – a kid’s favorite, a parent’s nightmare - everyone was chasing behind their kids trying to protect them from falling and scraping their knees (unfortunately, there was at least one accident). So much for creating a safe environment!
I think Asher’s favorite part was the smash cake. He wasn’t sure about it at first, but he quickly figured it out, and as much ended up in his mouth as on his face and body. It was a mess, but he LOVED every moment of it, and we loved watching it.
As with most 1 year olds, Asher was overwhelmed with all the stimulation. He didn’t particularly love everyone getting up in his face, kissing him and wishing him a happy birthday.
His entire 1st year of life, he’d been the patient, younger brother living in the shadows of his sister’s cancer battle and medical needs. He wasn’t used to all the attention. So, though he was uncomfortable, it was glorious watching his star shine. He very much deserved his day in the spotlight.
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