Thursday December 17th was a day we will never forget.
Amanda, my cousin Sherry, and I were at Millie's Christmas program at her preschool, and we all noticed how pale she was, and that her throat and cheeks looked swollen. After the program ended, I went back to work, assuming she was alright, while Amanda after talking with her mom took Millie to the pediatrician. They preformed a blood test and after seeing the results, she sent them to the hospital for further tests.
We hadn't been there long when the oncologist came in and told us that he was fairly certain that Millie had leukemia, but wouldn't be certain until more blood tests were completed the next morning. With little more than that, Millie was admitted to the hospital while we waited anxiously.
She got a blood transfusion the first night in the hospital, and despite the claims that it would restore color to her face, she was still very pale, and would be until more transfusions were completed. Although we still hadn't heard anything for sure, by the way the hospital staff was treating us, it was clear to us that everyone else knew she had leukemia.
At around 10:45 in the morning on Friday the 18th, a group of doctors from the oncology department came in to tell us that the tests showed that she had leukemia, and that a slot in the operating room had opened up for 11:00 - just 15 minutes away. They said that they would explain more later, but the short description was that she would have a spinal tap to get samples of her spinal fluid, a bone marrow sample would be taken from a vertebra, the first chemo drug would be put into her spinal fluid, and a picc line would be put into her arm. With that, we got her in a wheel chair and I wheeled her down to the operating room.
This picture is of Amanda calling her mom during Millie's procedure. Despite the fact that we already knew that she had leukemia, it was a major shock to find out for sure and have her begin chemo just 15 minutes later. It went smoothly and Millie didn't even notice that she had been poked and prodded, other than the single picc line which replaced two IVs, which was a good deal in her mind.
Although Millie didn't love being in the hospital, she did love the pancakes, bacon, and chocolate milk could be delivered to her room.
If you look close at the arm she is eating with you can see how swollen her elbow got. She had a ton of mutated white blood cells that didn't have anywhere to go, so they got trapped in her elbow. This picture was taken when the swelling was coming down and it wasn't hurting her as bad. Originally if she even thought you were going to touch her arm she would start crying.
This isn't the most flattering picture of me, but Millie sure is adorable. She always wanted one of us to be laying in her bed.
We thought Millie would be really happy that Santa came to her room, because she'd been wanting to see him for weeks. Much to our dismay, she instantly dismissed him as an impostor. "Mom," she said, "that's not the real Santa - Santa doesn't have glasses!"
She was pretty happy to have her little brother come visit her.
Millie and Amanda taking an afternoon nap, which I'm convinced Amanda and her have taken every weekday since Millie was born, although Amanda will never admit it...
I can't put into words what this past week has been like, but I'll try to describe it a little. It is truly heartbreaking to have to tell a four year old girl that she will lose her hair. She loves her hair, and never wants it to be put up because she loves how long it is. At her age, she associates short hair with boys, so this was not only a threat to her looks, but her very identity. She has no concept of time, and even if she did, we wouldn't have the heart to tell her that she's going to go through chemo for 2.5 years. She was crushed to learn she wouldn't be going to preschool, primary (Sunday school for little kids), or dance class for a little while. Most of all, she was scared. She saw so many loved ones come visit her, choking back tears, and although she doesn't understand what leukemia is, she understands our reactions.
She's starting to do better emotionally, but is still scared, and is still very worried about her hair. We were sent home on Tuesday the 22nd. She was happy to be home, but still depressed. The next night, I took her to rent a DVD from the RedBox vending machines at the local McDonalds. There was a boy, I'm guessing 12 years old, who was there with his family. He was bald and was obviously going through chemotherapy. I pointed him out to Millie, and she got really excited. Who knows what has been going through her innocent little mind, but I think seeing this boy out having fun with his family helped her to realize that it might not be as bad as she was afraid it would be.
For all of you who have helped us this past week, in any way, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts! So many people have been so good to us. We had so many people stop by the hospital with gifts for Millie, which helped her so much. We had Oxford friends from around the world have gifts sent to her room and to our house. We had friends, family, and neighbors call to tell us that they are there for anything we need. We had gifts sent by old neighbors that we haven't seen in years, and even from people we don't know, who heard from mutual friends about us and wanted us to know they're thinking of us.
When we found out that we would be allowed to come home with just a few hours notice, some of our family members and 19 women from our neighborhood, showed up to clean our house and disinfect every surface they could find. They showed up within minutes of us telling family that we would be coming home. This show of love would be impressive at any time, but was downright unbelievable given that it was December 22nd, right in the middle of the busiest week of the year.
The hospital staff was so good to us. There were so many people who would come by and try to cheer her up, and we felt that she was in the best hands possible.
Last, but certainly not least, my employer Magnum, was more thoughtful than we could have imagined. We shouldn't have been surprised by this, as they were very considerate and helpful when Amanda was on bedrest followed by Austin spending a month in the NICU at the hosptial, but they were so incredibly kind to us following this horrific news, that we couldn't believe it. I love my job, there isn't anything I'd rather be doing, but knowing how much they care for me and my family, I can't express how grateful I am to be working with such fine people.
So many people have shown us support that I couldn't possibly list them all here, but we are indeed grateful for everything. Thank you all for your friendship, your support, and most of all, your prayers.