30 DAYS/30 STORIES® 2022
My name is Stefanie, and my youngest son, Jameson, was just diagnosed with Leukemia at age 23 months. This is our story. It was your typical Friday night. My husband had left to go to work at his second job, and I was exhausted from working all week. My mother-in-law was kind enough to take all four of my boys for a sleepover at her house. Before heading out for their adventure with grandma, I warned her that Jameson had been a little extra fussy at daycare all week, but that he was probably just teething or was coming down with something, which is pretty typical in that situation. After about two hours of being at grandma’s, my mother-in -aw called me and said that Jameson was miserable and crying hysterically, so she was bringing him home.
After he got home, I began to notice that something was off about him, something different than before, something that is hard to describe. It wasn’t until he refused to walk that I knew this wasn’t a typical sickness from daycare. I immediately went into a panic; everything raced through my head from simple things such as did he get hurt, is a bone broken, and even more drastic...is he somehow paralyzed and will he ever walk again? I called my mother-in-law and asked if anything happened at her house; did maybe one of his brothers fall on him while playing? She assured me nothing happened, and I began to think back to his week at daycare. I was his teacher and with him all the time, surely something would stick out.
He had been extra clingy, cranky, and fatigued but nothing that could make him lose the ability to walk. After calling and talking to my husband at work, we came to a mutual decision that it wasn’t ER-worthy and that we could make a pediatrician appointment in the morning. First thing Saturday morning, we got Jameson in to see his pediatrician who informed us that he probably had toxic synovitis; an inflammation of the hips, and it would resolve itself in a few days to a week with some Motrin. We followed the pediatrician’s advice and started giving him Motrin, and within two doses he was walking again. “What a relief!” we thought; was it really that simple? A little bit of Motrin to solve all his problems? Sunday night, he stopped walking again.
Not only had Jameson stopped walking again, but he had started to develop a fever as well, a previously unseen symptom. After calling the pediatrician and waiting the recommended 24 hours to see if it was only temporary, we found ourselves back in the office with two options presenting themselves: 1. They would put in an order for bloodwork and x-rays as necessary or 2. We could go to the ER, where they could do the bloodwork and get the results faster than an outpatient clinic could.
My husband decided to take him to the ER right away, hoping to get some answers and be home that night. After examination by the emergency physicians, bloodwork showed that he had a staph infection and would need to be admitted to the hospital observation unit until it cleared. In addition to the staph infection, the doctors indicated that there was another underlying issue they could see with his blood; but they couldn’t quite nail it down. After a full day in observation, several blood tests and examination by several more doctors, we were informed that he had officially been diagnosed with B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, and he was going to be admitted to the pediatric unit of the hospital, moving out of observation.
We spent 15 days in the hospital, most of which were a blur to my husband and me, as we took turns trying to juggle being in the hospital, understanding what was happening with our son and having life seem as normal as possible for our three other boys at home (who just wanted to see their brother again). Something that will always be etched into my brain during this time is having conversations with my six- and seven-year-old sons about why their brother was in the hospital, why he was sick, how he got sick, and what we have ahead of us, trying to explain to them the best I could what was going on.
During one of these conversations in particular my 6-year-old turned to me and said, “Mommy is James going to die?” It hit me like a dagger; it was such a tough question, but I told him that I could not ever make a promise that I possibly can’t keep. I told him the future looks bright, and we were going to fight, fight, fight and do everything in our power so that he stays with us forever. My boys know that James’ fight with cancer is our family fight and that we each have a job to do to help him with this battle.
Jameson now does chemotherapy about once a week, started walking again after about a month of treatment and has started acting like himself again. He has been taking the treatment in stride, and we hope that it continues this way. We know that we may have many challenges ahead. We are blessed to have such an amazing support system including but not limited to friends and families and the amazing staff of doctors, nurses, social workers and child life specialists. As we continue in our journey, we know that we are in excellent hands. We have now met so many amazing families of other cancer warriors that give us so much hope for the future.
Written by Jameson’s mom, Stefanie
Please consider helping children with cancer and others in our community by scheduling a blood donation at Miller-Keystone Blood Center: https://donor.giveapint.org/donor/schedules/zip