Robert The Great
On December 16, 2010 my family’s life was forever changed. On that unforgettable night our little boy was diagnosed with cancer. Robert had seemed more tired than usual, coming home from school and wanting to sleep instead of play. He began to look a little pale, and upon the appearance of dark circles under his eyes I made an appointment with the pediatrician. His doctor ran blood work and within an hour we were on our way to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. There are no words to describe the emotional tide that overcame my husband and me. The first few days were almost paralyzing. As we began to accept the situation, we moved into a phase of seemingly endless information seeking. We were immersed into a world of new procedures, terminologies, habits and concerns. After a few weeks we had begun to settle into our new routines, learn the things we needed to, and feeling more confident in our grasp of the situation.
Once we were finally home, we had a newfound appreciation for every night in our own bed. Our daily fate was settled by the thermometer. With Robert’s frail immune system, the slightest bug would cause an infection that his body couldn’t handle. This would lead to a fever and a trip to the ER.
As we rounded the corner past the three year mark of intense treatment, we could see the end in our sights. But during a routine spinal tap several cancer cells were detected in his spinal fluid. Another tap was ordered and more cells could be seen. Robert had relapsed. His official diagnoses, an Isolated Central Nervous System relapse of ALL. We would immediately stop the original treatment plan and begin a whole new two year intense protocol that involves much higher doses of chemotherapy, extensive hospital stays and cranial radiation. Robert completed this treatment and was able to enjoy exactly one month off treatment. But just before that one month checkup, he lost all movement in his legs. He was unable to walk. At that appointment the doctors were highly concerned and an MRI and spinal tap revealed the leukemia in his spinal fluid had gone awry. He had relapsed a second time. Once again he was immediately thrown into chemo and spinal radiation in the hopes of getting his legs working again. Thankfully they work. That also turned into a marathon 74 day hospital stay. Robert is a complicated case, his leukemia is sneaky so our doctor has been diligent about researching what it best. We traveled across the country to Seattle to attempt a clinical trial. After two months away from home and returning home we found out once again the treatment failed and another relapse was inevitable. A few months went by and the cancer cells returned as expected, so we once again packed up and traveled to another state for another innovative therapy in the hopes of saving our son. We had some success with that trial but have had to take extra steps and more treatments in hopes of long term success. We will now play the game of "wait and see" for a few months.
Throughout this whole journey of chemotherapy, spinal tabs, side effects, hospital stays, and family separation, Robert has shown such amazing strength. He’s never complained and has dealt with every situation better than I ever could. His smile is big and his laughter infectious. He has taught us what is important in life and what really matters.
This year Robert turned 13 and has officially been battling cancer longer in his life than he has not. CURE Childhood Cancer has been a big part of our lives since Robert’s first day at the hospital at age 6. Please consider honoring our precious boy, all the other brave children fighting for their lives and for the many that have gone too soon. Please donate to CURE, because it’s a CURE we are all hoping for.