That Time I Broke Down

10689854_333889466781873_2909414857651312247_nThe ride to Memphis took almost exactly 5 hours. We left at 7:00 in the morning, and I was exhausted and numb.

At first, Cub watched the receding traffic out the back windows, took stock of the various medical equipment stowed away in see-through cubby holes, and laughed at the funny sounds the tires made on the changing road surfaces.

And, at first, all I could do was watch him. I soaked him in as if I was a dry, crusty sponge desperate for the waters of life.

Eventually, he fell asleep, and a member of the EMT transport team asked me if I’d ever been to Memphis.

“No.” I smiled, dragging myself to the surface for a little small talk – wanting to be polite. These men were working a double shift to get my son to St. Jude’s as soon as possible.

As we chatted, he told me he was a Memphis native. He had traveled a bit, but always came back home. He told me the mystery of Beal Street and told me the best place in town to listen to the Blues, if I ever got the chance. Then he started telling me about St. Jude.

He told me how they only have about 100 in-patient beds. He told me how he was amazed that we were getting in less than 24 hours after diagnosis. He told me how it was the best hospital in the world for “what your boy has.”

His words spoke hope to my aching heart. Suddenly, we couldn’t get there fast enough. I wanted to just get started – to have someone, an expert, tell me what I needed to do to make my son healthy, and then do it.

When we drove across the bridge that turns Arkansas into Tennessee, I couldn’t see a thing in front of us. I could only see what we were leaving behind.

We arrived at St. Jude’s, and were unloaded into an isolation area that seemed so foreign, even though in the last 5 weeks, it has become a second home. We were embraced with kindness from the cleaning lady to the head nurse to the flurry of Specialists, Residents and Fellows we saw in those first hours.

A Fellow came in and explained that he was sure that the next day’s bone marrow test would show that Cub has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, or ALL. He said that what they didn’t yet know was if it was T-Cell or B-Cell. He also said that Cub had the most common kind of childhood Leukemia, and the one with the best cure rate: 90%.

90%? The doctor in Springfield had said 96%. No. We NEED that extra 6%.

I nodded my head a lot. I said, “Okay, okay,” a lot.

I signed the necessary paperwork.

A nurse showed me around the floor a bit while Cub was having his vitals taken. Again.

She showed me the community shower for the parents, and the washer and dryer for the parents. She showed me the nourishment room where I could go to get Cub an apple juice or graham crackers to help settle his stomach in the middle of the night.

I nodded my head a lot. I said, “Okay, okay,” a lot.

Then she asked if I had any other questions.

I struggled to keep my composure and said something like, “The only other real question I have is how do I make sure he’s in that 90%? He has to be in that 90%.”

She put her hand on my shoulder and said, “He will be. He WILL. The cure rate is more than 90%. You’ll see. And right now, the best thing you can do is be strong for him because he’s going to be looking to you to know that he’s going to be okay.”

I nodded my head and said okay.

A few minutes later, I stole a moment of privacy to call one of my friends.

“What do I do? I can’t guarantee anything! I can’t make sure that he’s going to be okay! How do I do that for three years without knowing he’s going to be okay?”

I was panicked. In tears. And terrified.

My friend said something like,” He will be, Marilyn. He will be okay. And think of this. What do you want these three years to be like for him? And for you? Do you want to get to the end of these three years, and he’s fine, and they were filled with fear for nothing? What do you want to see when you look back? What do you want him to see?”

Boom.

The answer to her question wasn’t hard to find.

I want to see love. I want Cub to see love. Every day.

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10 comments

  1. Marilyn thank you for this message two days before Thanksgiving. Although I can not currently relate your message bounces around in my heart and head this morning. I am thankful and will do my best to remind myself that I only have one shot at this thing called life, parenting, being a wife, relationships etc. “What will they remember when they look back?” My prayers are with you and little Cub. Sending long distance hugs from Springfield.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We are a family that has had 3 St Jude kids. It is not supposed to happen. But, your child is watching you go through this with them. They want to take care of you. They want to love you. And, they need a reason to go through this with courage and faith. Although our family has been wrecked by childhood cancer, our souls are stronger, closer and more purposeful than before. God will bring good into your life, if you pour good out of your heart. There are great people at St Jude they do what they do, every day. Every day. And the fact that they are there doing that is a blessing to all of us who seek time and healing for our children. May God bless you and give you strength during this time. If we can help, we lived in Memphis for many years. Reach out. We also know just about everyone at St Jude. And lots of survivors…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Marilyn,
    I’m not sure you remember me, but we went to high school together. My daughters, Emma (9yo) and Eva (6yo), and I have been following your entries and absolutely are amazed the journey that you and Cub are enduring and living. We read and pray for both of you and your family. God bless and thank you for sharing your journey. 🙏💛

    Liked by 1 person

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