Friday, November 15, 2013

So sad

Every now and then, something unfortunate happens to someone I know only through the internet. An illness. An accident. Everyone reading about the incident sends along support, prayers, hugs. And then we move on.

But not always.

I've been following the story of a woman rabbi (and her husband) with four kids, one of whom -- an 8-year-old boy -- has leukemia. She calls him "Superman Sam," and has been blogging about his treatment and recovery from his cancer. It seemed like things were going pretty well, until last night.

Last night, right before bed, I was reading through my Twitter feed and this is what I read:
We are so desperately heartbroken and filled with sadness.
Sam has relapsed.

His ninja leukemia is so very strong.
It has reared its head in his bone marrow and in some extramedullary spots on his jaw and head.

There is no cure.
There is no treatment.
Even reading it over now, I am at a loss.

This story starts in June of 2012, when Sam started experiencing severe pain in his legs and arms. After tests and trials of medications and scans, this was the result:
My whole universe collapsed in on me at 4:30pm on a Tuesday.
My sweet little Sammy.

We asked questions. They made plans. A port to be inserted. A spinal tap to be taken. Chemotherapy to be arranged. We sent texts. We made calls. We wrote emails.

And we cried.

Sam was in a lot of pain. He complained. He begged to go home.

Now it is almost Thursday.
Less than 48 hours later, chemo has begun.
Less than 48 hours later, everything has changed.
Less than 48 hours later, "we won't be here long" has become "a month."

Sam has cancer.
Acute myeloid leukemia.
And our lives will never be the same.
Because all I know how to do at times like this is try to learn, I looked up acute myeloid leukemia. Acute myeloid leukemia is a cancer of the blood. The white blood cells in the bone marrow are abnormal and block the normal white blood cells.  According to the National Cancer Institute, "among the 12 major types of childhood cancers, leukemias (blood cell cancers) and cancers of the brain and central nervous system account for more than half of the new cases. About one-third of childhood cancers are leukemias." The NCI assures us that these cancers in children are relatively rare.

But not if it's your child.

Also according to the NCI, "the causes of childhood cancers are largely unknown." So we don't understand how to prevent them.

I am certain, however, that environmental exposures play a role. And the NCI admits that "the overall incidence of childhood cancer has been slowly increasing since 1975." So something in our world is causing this increase.

However, that is not so useful right now.  My heart goes out to this family. I can't imagine how it must be, trying to parent an 8-year-old boy with a life-limiting illness, while continuing to parent three other children. It says on their blog that they are going to make the most of the time that Sam has left, and that sounds like a good thing to do. It seems that they have a strong, supportive, loving community.

But mostly, this whole thing just leaves me with a dull pain in the pit of my stomach.

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