The Day that Forever Changed Me – Aileen Ramones
It’s hard to believe that it was 5 years ago on August 10th, and I remember it like it was yesterday. I had brought Aaden into see a doctor about his reoccurring fever and these red dots…looked a lot little pin pricks on his skin. It wasn’t his normal pediatrician, and although she couldn’t really figure out what was causing his fevers, she wanted a chest x-ray and to get some blood samples. So we went to the lab and Aaden was so brave for the x-ray and blood draws, little did we know that he was to endure things far worse.
I remember we were just walking to the car from picking up his prescriptions when my cell phone rang. It was the doctor. Her voice was calm, but assertive. She said that Aaden would have to be admitted and that I needed to go pack some things but safely get to the hospital as soon as we could. I tried my best to remain calm, she couldn’t really tell me much, I remember her mentioning a low platelet count. I just remember feeling very alone as Andre my husband was doing some Army training out of state and the panic set in. I called my sister to see if she could pick up Andy , Aaden’s twin brother from school and take care of him overnight. I never thought that could be the last time Aaden would be free and out of the hospital.
At the hospital I was greeted by a doctor, who was trying to explain why we had to be admitted. It was just me and Aaden. I was holding him in my lap and he was so content, while I was trying to sort out the words coming out of her mouth –I remember her drawing pictures and telling me about worst and best case scenarios. But among all my confusion and shock the one word that hit me the hardest –cancer. My heart sank, and I was so scared. I remember calling Andre and telling him, that we weren’t sure what it was, but it might be cancer. I could only imagine how he would feel, him being a Radiation Therapist. He knows and has seen what cancer can do. He would not be able to get to us until the next day. That night, I wanted to be near Aaden so I opted for a twin bed rather than a crib even though he was so small still, I stayed in bed with him. I didn’t sleep that night….nor the nights to follow, but at least I had him by me and in all the pain to come; it was him that kept me strong. The next day we found out his true diagnosis acute myeloid leukemia M7 a rare type of aggressive cancer—also known as the worst case scenario.
Although by all means this is not an anniversary I celebrate, this is not a day I remember with joy. But it is the day my life changed. It is a day I share with you, because it happened to me. It happened to someone you know, and sadly, it can happen to anyone. Before that day, I would never ever have thought that one of my children could get cancer –a 17 month old– a baby and then almost 9 months later the reality of losing him to cancer. But every day children are getting diagnosed, every day children die of cancer. Did you know the taxpayer-funded National Cancer Institute (NCI) only dedicates approximately 4% of its annual budget to childhood cancer?
And although we lost Aaden almost 5 years ago, there is always the constant fear for Andy because identical twin siblings have a higher risk of developing leukemia – a 1 in 5 chance. That fight and that fear for us is definitely not over. I never tell you these things to make you feel sad or mad, but rather so that you know how pediatric cancer affects lives and in hopes that you will take action.