A Lifetime in 7 Months

A lot has happened in the time that I was let go from Citrix.  If you simply look at the last 7 months of my employment, it certainly doesn’t look good but as with most anything in this world there is more to the story.  Never judge a book by its cover as they say.

Around Thanksgiving in 2017 my 13 year old son started having occasional stomach pains.  These would typically happen during school.  After a week or so of having to pick him up from school because of the pain we took him to his pediatrician.  The doctor thought the pains were anxiety caused based on how they were occasional and happened almost exclusively at school plus my son does NOT like school whatsoever.  Unfortunately things proceeded to get worse for him and mid-December, on a Saturday, I took him into the ER because the pain was too much for him.  By the time we got to the ER and the doctors looked him over the pain had subsided and he was fine.  They also thought it was anxiety related.  I asked about doing a CAT scan and while they didn’t rule it out they did say I should talk to our pediatrician about scheduling one because that would allow the hospital a clearer scan.

The following Tuesday my son woke up in the most terrible pain I have every seen and this time it was not going away.  We took him into his pediatrician first thing in the morning and we were scheduled a CT scan that afternoon.  That scan would change everything.

The scan showed he was experiencing what is called intussusception.  It is essentially the telescoping of the small intestine into the large.  This is extremely dangerous and required emergency surgery.  Now keep in mind that a number of things had to come together for this to be diagnosed.  The biggest is that the CT scan and the problem had to be occurring at the same time.  If he is not suffering from the pain, everything would’ve showed up as normal from the scan.  In essence, if he had had the scan on the Saturday he was in the ER or the following Monday or any other time before that, we most likely would’ve done the scan and found nothing and he would’ve continued to suffer and quite possibly would have been much worse off by time it was found.  Another thing to keep in mind is that this condition is common in newborns and babies.  It is extremely rare for anyone older than say 2 to have this condition.  The doctors at the children’s hospital were extremely surprised to see this in my son.

As I said, emergency surgery was required and he had to have a bowel resection.  The large intestine was grabbing onto something in the small intestine which was causing the telescoping.  They had to remove whatever it was that the large was grabbing onto.  The surgery was a success and the surgeon talked to my wife and I afterwards and said he found an enlarged lymph node but the tissue around it and the node itself looked healthy but he was sending it off for a biopsy anyways.  Thank God he did.

My son was to come home that following Friday morning.  My wife and I took turns staying overnight with him while he recovered in the hospital and my wife stayed with him Thursday night.  Friday morning, as I’m getting my 8 year old on the school bus, I get a call from my wife saying I need to get to the hospital right away.  She didn’t say it but I knew immediately something was very wrong and my first thought was the biopsy came back with something bad.  It did.

The biopsy showed that the lymph node was cancerous.  Obviously we were all devastated.  Here we were planning on getting him home and we receive that news.  It’s hard even thinking about that day even now.  No parent wants to hear their child has cancer and the initial diagnosis was not the best type either.  Not the worst but not great either.  They wanted to do some more testing to make sure they had it 100% identified but they wanted to started chemo right after it is.  We were supposed to be at Universal Studios during Christmas break but that had to be cancelled.  This news was delivered a week before school would let out for Christmas break.  We were expecting that chemo would be starting the Tuesday before Christmas.

Unfortunately/fortunately, they had a harder time than expected identifying the type of lymphoma.  They had to send the samples to the Mayo Clinic for help.  This pushed off treatment for about 3 weeks.  It did allow us to enjoy Christmas and the holidays with family which was great but it was also the most nerve wracking 3 weeks ever.

The diagnosis ended up being he had Pediatric Follicular Lymphoma.  The key word is Pediatric.  The adult version of this lymphoma is devastating.  The Pediatric version is about the best diagnosis you can get when your child is diagnosed with cancer.  This lymphoma is actually extremely rare is which why it was so difficult to identify.  The children’s hospital had only seen 3 cases of this lymphoma including my kids.  They collaborated with Mayo over treatment and it was determined that we would start with 3 rounds of chemo and evaluate after.  Early in January, my son had a port put in and started chemo.  Treatments lasted into March.

I can’t even imagine what this was like for my son.  Imagine being 13, told you have cancer, you’d need to do chemo and along with all the side effects including losing your hair.  This kid loved his hair.  He wore it long and would fight us every time we would even suggest a trim.  I have never seen a stronger kid than this during those few months of treatment.  He started losing his hair in the middle of school.  He was sort of playing with it and noticed that some chunks were coming out.  Instead of wanting to come home, he stayed the day and when my wife picked him up from school he said “let’s shave it”.  That’s what we did.  When he got home, we went into the bathroom and shaved his head.  He had to have injections every day, blood drawn at least once a week, scans with contrast, and of course the port accessed for the chemo.  He took everything in stride.  I don’t know if I could’ve done that but he did it and I couldn’t be prouder of how he handled everything.

We are blessed with a great school system and in particular the middle school he goes too.  Everyone was behind him and us and worked with us to make sure he didn’t fall behind in school.  The students supported him completely.  It was an awesome thing to be part of.  Also, the community of Caledonia came together to support us.  There were two benefits put on for my son.  We received support from my 16 year old’s soccer club.  Not just his team but the entire club.  Again, we were truly blessed by all the support.  I can’t even begin to name everyone I want to thank.

Back to the story though.  His treatments were done for now and the Oncologist wanted to wait 2 months to do some more testing before deciding if more treatments would be required.  Finally, a break!  Or so we thought.

Late March rolls around and my youngest is across the street playing with his friend.  They were supposed to be playing in the garage because it was raining.  They decided not to follow that direction.  My son and his friend were rolling blading.  Down a steep driveway.  In the rain.  My son was going down the driveway and turned to go into the grass and, can you guess what happened next, he breaks his leg.  My wife and I are in our kitchen and can hear him screaming.  We run over, pick him up and take him to the ER.  The x-ray shows the break and when my wife and I see the break in the x-ray our first thought was that he would need surgery.  He had broken his tibia starting near the top and going diagonally down to near the bottom.  The good news was he would not need surgery but he would be in a cast for a minimum of 8 1/2 weeks and could put absolutely no pressure on that foot during that time.

8 1/2 weeks later (mid to late May at this point) the doctors x-ray his leg and say he can move to a walking boot but for the first two weeks he is still to put no pressure on that leg.  2 weeks later he is walking on that foot and going through some physical therapy to help him regain range of motion of the ankle and knee.  Now the one thing I didn’t mention is that we were supposed to be at Disney World from June 10-16.  At this point, I’m ready to wrap the entire family in bubble wrap to make sure nothing else happened before vacation.

To add to all this, about mid-April I came down with the worst virus I have ever had.  I don’t think I have ever been sick like this before.  It lasted 3 full weeks and the timing couldn’t have been worse because I had just started a new job April 2.  I tried to fight through this thing and I only ended up taking two days off for sickness.  I was a wreck though during that time I was working though.  I had completely lost my voice for almost 2 of those weeks and could barely function otherwise but I had to keep working.

Now back to my 13 year old.  On May 30, 2018 he went in for some scans and blood work.  The Oncologist specifically called us before we left to make sure that both of us (my wife and I) would be there because they should have answers very soon after the tests are completed.  My wife took him in for the tests in the morning and I joined them around 1:30pm to talk with the doctor.  She informed us that all the tests came back wonderful and as of May 30, 2018 my son was in remission!  I can’t even begin to put into words the joy I felt from hearing that.  I could literally feel the weight come off my shoulders and relief flood through me.  May 31, 2018 was my birthday.  I’ve never had as great a birthday present than the news from the day before.  June 1, 2018 I was laid off from my new position.  Hell of a week.

In the end, we ended up going to Disney World and had a great time.  This was something we all needed in the worst way and, in my opinion, we absolutely deserved after the past 7 months.  My son is in remission, my youngest is walking again and getting stronger every day, and my oldest (16) got through another year of soccer uninjured (thank God for small favors lol).

I am more than willing to go into more detail on how all this has affected the jobs I was in but I would prefer to do that privately.  I have met some of the absolute best people and the absolute worst during this time.  Thank you to everyone for the support during these trials.

I am truly looking forward to what the future has to bring.

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