Atia had been battling a cough and runny nose since the Sunday following New Year’s Day (2010). We watched her like a hawk, frequently monitoring her temperature. She didn’t have a fever, which was good because those typically indicated something bad and required immediate medical attention.
I was concerned about her symptoms because I’d just come down with a sinus infection that required antibiotics and Asher was sick with a cough, congestion and runny nose, too. Steve was the only one well and by default tasked with caring for all three of us.
Five days later, during her monthly chemo injection appointment, Atia’s doctor confirmed that she just had a cold; he wasn’t concerned.
As we sat waiting for the chemo, Atia moved me to tears when she quietly and sadly said, “Mommy, I don’t want the chemo today. Please Mommy, no chemo.” It was such a desperate plea. I imagined myself scooping her up and running away as fast as I could, never looking back. But the reality was, I couldn’t stop it from happening. So, I drew her closer with a hug and gently said, “I know honey, but it will be quick and then we can leave. Be brave, my love.”
Even though she was afraid, she was still very brave. Atia only whimpered and squirmed a little as they inserted the needle into her chest. Another mommy actually used her as an example saying to her son, “Watch Atia. She doesn’t cry. She’s so brave. You can be brave too.”
For the next week, the typical side effects ensued: exhaustion, moodiness and overall discomfort. The bright side was that the chemo side effects dissipated in tandem with the cold symptoms. And like that, her battery was recharged and she was full of energy. For several days she was active and playful and then without warning, the winds changed…
Late one evening, Atia became extremely irritable. While soothing her, we noticed that she was hot, really hot. We took her temperature and sure enough she had a fever, but it wasn’t horrible, yet. We monitored it throughout the night and by 5:30 a.m. it had increased to 103.4 degrees. We panicked!
We had to get her to the hospital and instinctively knew that she would be admitted — staying for at least four days. We raced around the house packing up as many items as we could: clothes for all four of us, formula, bottles, diapers, toys, etc. We ended up with one gigantic suitcase and several reusable grocery bags full of stuff.
Getting ready for a hospital stay had gotten complicated now that we had Asher. It was our first time in this situation since he was born and nothing seemed “quick and easy” anymore.
We zipped off to the hospital arriving at the pediatric oncology clinic before it opened. We had decided to forego the emergency room. From experience, we knew that it would only delay the process.
Ms. Mary, Atia’s favorite nurse, was the first to arrive in the office that day. We explained the situation and she quickly ushered us into a private treatment room. She immediately confirmed Atia’s elevated temperature and drew blood.
The results showed that Atia only had 150 ANC (good white blood cells). That was incredibly low and meant that she was highly neutrapenic.
As anticipated, Atia was admitted…
As you know, my blogs still haven’t caught up to today, so this one was about what happened LAST January. However, I can’t close this entry without fastforwarding to today and wishing my baby girl a Happy 3rd Birthday (yesterday). Unfortunately, we spent it in the hosptial and we are still here today. I ask you all to say a pray for her.
Atia, I count my blessing every day knowing that you are one step closer to getting past this and moving forward with life. Here’s to good health, increased strength and much happiness.
With all my love,
Filed under: Maintenance Phase
Tags: ALL leukemia, ANC, Atia Lutarewych, chemo, chemo side effects, chemo treatment, chemotherapy, childhood cancer, clinic, Cold, Comer Children's Hospital, emergency room, Fever, Hospital, neutrapenic, pediatric cancer, pediatric oncology, Sick, U of C, University of Chicago, university of chicago medical center, white blood cells