The year 2009 brought about several changes in our family’s life. In April, my wife, Sherry, was diagnosed with Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma. The 2-centimeter tumor was located in the orbital space behind her right eye. All her doctors agreed the way to get rid of this form of cancer was to totally remove her eye, eyelids, bone and tissue around her right eye. She had that procedure done, followed by 25 radiation treatments. This spring, Sherry will be healed enough to have some reconstruction, and get a prosthesis.
Exactly 90 days later, our two-year-old son, Riley, was diagnosed with a Wilm’s Tumor covering his left kidney. Riley was playing outside with his brother, Noah, and cousin, Logan. Riley and Logan came running into the house. Riley was choking, and Logan said, “I think he swallowed a rock.” A few days later, a church nursery worker told Sherry that Riley was having trouble going to the bathroom and was crying with abdominal pain. Sherry remembered “the rock” and called me at work. I work in a radiology department at a small hospital in north Georgia. I asked Sherry to bring Riley in for an X-ray to see if indeed he had swallowed a rock and if it would pass. On the X-ray film, we saw the rock in his lower pelvis, but when I called the radiologist to look at the film, we got some unexpected news. The rock was about 1 centimeter, but Riley also had a soft tissue mass on his left kidney which was 10 centimeters. The radiologist consulted with Riley’s pediatrician and got us an appointment at the Aflac Cancer Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta the next morning. The doctors said after the tumor was out and we got the pathology results back, we could determine what treatment plan would be needed.
Riley had the tumor and his left kidney removed on July 21, 2009. After waiting a few more days on the pathology results, we received the best news possible. Riley’s cancer was stage one with favorable pathology, meaning everything was contained and no lymph nodes or other organs were involved. Riley would need some chemotherapy, but his prognosis was great. All we could say was, “Thank God for that rock!!”
During our stay in the hospital, someone from CURE Childhood Cancer brought by a bag of goodies and told us about the dinner CURE provides every Thursday night. The Mellow Mushroom pizza CURE brought was the first real food Riley ate after surgery, and Mom and Dad enjoyed it, too. All the people we have met from CURE have gone out of their way to make us feel better. During Riley’s chemotherapy, we got to know several volunteers from CURE who played trucks with Riley in the waiting area. They made kites and butterflies and talked with Noah, who is 10, and has been the greatest big brother. The people of CURE are amazing! Everything they do, they do for the kids and for the future of kids.
Sherry and Riley have been through so much in one year, but I believe our faith in God and very supportive family and friends have helped us to look ahead to the future. It is awesome that we were created with two eyes and two kidneys, and when we lose one, we can still live. When we reflect on the past year, there are so many times and so many ways we could see God carrying us through times when we thought we couldn’t go on. We do not take it lightly that there are others who are suffering and may not have such a bright prognosis. That is why we should ALL take every day we have as a gift and use it to love and help others whenever we can. We couldn’t see it then, but believe it or not, 2009 changed us for the better. Happy 2010!