Still flying high from my “Cured” diagnosis, our family was in good spirits. November always held the promise of crisp weather, turning leaves, dedicated family time and overindulging in delicious food – Thanksgiving, of course - all tops in my book!
But when the roller coaster goes up, it must come down…
Atia was being tracked closely after her unexpected hospitalization in September (over her 3rd birthday). What that meant was that she had more frequent clinic visits – more needles than normal accessing her tiny, delicate port and more vials of blood being drawn to test her counts.
Being poked in the exact same place over and over left a raw, bruised patch of skin tender to the touch; as you can imagine, Atia wasn’t a big fan of that intensified monitoring.
It wasn’t until we were in the clinic early November that we realized the next week we’d be back again to get her extra dose of chemotherapy – her monthly injection. Knowing how sensitive Atia’s port site had become, our fantastically amazing medical staff agreed to roll the following week’s appointment into that one so as to avoid any unnecessary port poking.
There was no escaping it, so combining the blood work with a chemo push was the best case scenario. Though I was pleased with the solution, it accelerated us ahead one week in Atia’s treatment plan. To most folks that doesn’t mean much, but to a cancer family, that’s a big adjustment. Part of dealing with chemotherapy, the side effects, the mood swings, the added work “hell week” creates is to be mentally prepared. Steve and I literally did a countdown every time it was nearing Atia’s extra chemo week each month. So, to have it sprung on us was a challenge.
It was a tough week as always, but this time she was exceptionally sad. She didn’t want to leave my side, even when she was scheduled to do things she normally adored. I think all the appointments, poking, hurting, exhaustion, weakness and body aches simply got to her and she was SAD.
We supported her the best way we knew how – giving her tons and tons of extra lovin’ – cuddling and kissing were out best weapons.
And then the rollercoaster stabilized…
By Thanksgiving all side effects were cleared up. Atia was still taking daily chemo doses, but those never seemed to have quite the effect the “extra” dose had each month. Atia’s best therapy was family, and by family, I mean her cousin Cierstin. There is no one cooler in Atia’s world.
Thanksgiving is always doubly exciting because it’s followed by Cierstin’s birthday. Cierstin was turning 8 years old and she was having a Gymnastics Birthday Party. Atia had never been in a gym or on any of the equipment before, so we weren’t sure how she’d do with all the big girls – she was only 3 years old.
Me, being a goofy mom, was more concerned about Atia looking cute than comfortable. I dress her in jeans and a sweater – duh! - poor thing was constricted by her clothes. Even in the ridiculous outfit, she did a good job and we were proud of her.
During that time, she was just starting to regain her strength. She still couldn’t run quickly and had an unusual running style; she was overcompensating for her lack of leg muscles. So the fact that she fell in love with the tumble track was awesome. She truly enjoyed bouncing, feeling her hair move in the wind. I stared in amazement as I watched, giddy with excitement that my girl was fitting in with the big girls. Can you tell she has cancer in this video?
Immediately following the party, she asked us to sign her up for gymnastics and as much as we would have loved to, we were victims of her weak immune system and prisoners to her aggressive treatment schedule. She would have missed too many days… so, no gymnastics for her for a while.
But it was on the top of our to-do list once she completed treatment.
Atia December 2011 - 4 years old
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