Friday, 10 February 2017
A Mother's story by Virna Baillie
It lands on your door stop like a meteorite - here it is a letter from the cancer centre for my 18 year old son. At first the awkwardness, then the pain and then summoning up the strength to face this journey is beyond immense and that's for just me.
What must it really be like for those who tread this splintered path? The truth is until we do, we will never know because those who do are the most courageous, humble and caring people and they are the ones who actually end up carrying you.
I ashamedly could not go to the first appointment with Jordan to the cancer centre. I stayed at home on Valium, petrified, in tears, with a fear that if I should go, I would break down like some wreck while my child got battered by the news he was to receive.
That day he had a series of questions and tests then a pat on the back and a cancer sentence given to him. No formal diagnoses just we know you have cancer just not sure which type yet.
I remember Jordan coming home shutting himself into a dark bedroom and going to bed. I stood outside his door feeling sick and not even knowing what to say or how to give him hope - any hope.
Nothing from this moment on made sense. Bombarded with information, but nothing to offer him but the standard cancer treatment. No choice, no real explanations just information and leaflets which may as well have been in Japanese. Your brain can simply not take in any information - your child has cancer. How on earth do you function? Well let me tell you - YOU DON'T. You forget how good it feels to be alive, you put one foot in front of the other but it's not you walking.
Jordan’s now admitted to hospital as his pain in no longer controllable at home. A very pleasant member of the pain team comes to visit Jordan but just dosed him up on morphine. Ahh the worlds a shiny, happy place. Chemo starts in a couple of days. My baby boy gets hooked up to his poison - he instantly goes yellow, transparent and ill. His taste changes, he feels sick. His eyes can't bear light so much so he has to wear glasses. His bones and muscles ache and sleep becomes his only escape. How can this be happening - not my boy - none of this makes sense and why should it. The chemo flows through his veins, this poison that is so strong the nurses are protected from head to toe. If it touched your skin it would burn a hole so imagine what it does to your insides.
Like a fire destroying everything in its path apart from the cancer. Jordan is desperately ill after his first round of chemo. Absolutely nothing helps subside his sickness, he in such a bad way. After still feeling like this after 5 days they decide that this is not a normal sickness but possibly a blockage. The tumour had bled, haemorrhaged causing the tumour to block his bowel. Jordan now needed life-saving surgery.
So here's the best bit. The oncologist tells me he has a great chance of not making the operation and he now has very few white blood cells otherwise known as neutropenic and that he would have no defences to fight an infection. In other words the surgeon is telling me without the operation the obstruction will kill him.
Jordan wanted the operation so we were booked in with Dr Shanker who is a sarcoma specialist and apparently eats sarcomas for breakfast. At last, a glimpse of some hope in this crazy world we were all living in.
Four hours of walking up and down Tottenham Court Road in a daze with a girlfriend of mine and then I am called by one of the consultants. Jordan was in recovery, the tumour had been removed and there was no spread of the disease to other organs and as far as the human eye could see no more cancer.
We had reached the shore. My amazing, lovely boy was on the road to recovery to be a fit healthy 18 year old and if anyone can beat this Jordan could.