30 DAYS/30 STORIES® 2020
The events that took place prior to Benjamin’s diagnosis are the reasons why I believe everything happens for a reason. For 8 years, I have been a single mother taking care of Benjamin all on my own. At times it could be challenging, but he is all worth it, because I am very proud every day to be his mother and to tell his story. In the fall of 2019, I have decided to take classes at Northampton Community College majoring in registered nursing. This was a huge transition for me, as I resigned from a full-time job and took on a different lifestyle as a full-time college student. I had the opportunity to do it and I was chasing after it. I knew I made the right choice for the both of us. I will always remember the fall semester of 2019. One of the classes I was registered for was Medical Literature. The topic cancer was emotional for the whole class. We watched the movie, “WIT,” where an English Literature professor was diagnosed with metastatic stage IV ovarian cancer. We also read the book, “At the Will of the Body,” by Arthur W. Frank, in which he shared his perspective on cancer. Throughout the class, we shared stories of family members and friends who were diagnosed with cancer and how they survived through it. I realize now, I have never been exposed so much to hearing about cancer until I took this class. Another class was Anatomy and Physiology II, where I needed my professor to explain blood typing to me. Her words will forever stick with me as she said, “Holly, you are going to be a nurse. It’s very important you know blood typing because you don’t want to make a mistake on a patient.” I now think about how important it was taking medical classes prior to hearing Benjamin’s unexpected news. These were all signs, covered by the unknown, that have prepared Ben and me for his journey of cancer.
It happened in June of this year when Benjamin had developed a small lump on the right side of his neck. He was in a little pain, when I then had him checked out by his pediatrician. They placed him on an antibiotic for two weeks and were holding off on sending him for blood work because of COVID. It crossed my mind that this could be cancer. After two weeks, the lump came down in size but hadn’t completely disappeared. About a month, it reappeared, but this time bigger in size. Benjamin was playing at his friend’s house, and I got a call from his mother he wasn’t feeling well. I knew I had to take him back to the pediatrician right away, something just didn’t seem right with the lump coming back the second time. I dropped all my errands and getting ready for vacation the next day to rush Benjamin to the pediatrician. I couldn’t take him to the beach in pain. We arrived at the office, but they couldn’t see him because of the fever he was running. We were then sent to express care to follow up with a physician. The radiology techs were gone for the day, so the physician recommended sending him to the Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital Emergency Room. I am forever grateful for having him treated right away, instead of leaving for the beach the next day.
There we found out his blood work came back abnormal with the white blood cell count very low. Next, they admitted him to the hospital to follow up with the hematologist/
oncologists. I could tell by the look in his eyes he was nervous and could also see he was weak and tired. He asked the doctors, “Am I going to die?” This crushed his little heart with how nervous he was, but then later he showed how brave he was and had many inquisitive questions to ask the medical staff on the floor. They were all fantastic with Ben’s care. They spoke honestly to Ben on a child level to explain everything that is going on with him. Again, I saw a tear run down his face after the talk with the physician.
I found out on July 21, 2020 that he was diagnosed with B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. They then started Ben on chemotherapy, as well as continuing the antibiotics for the infection of the lymph nodes. He was scheduled for a lumbar puncture and bone marrow during his stay in the hospital. Later he was going to the outpatient clinic to continue the lumbar puncture procedures, the results came back and found out his MRD was negative. Out of 10,000 to 100,000 they found no leukemia. This was moving Benjamin into standard care; it was great news. Today, Ben continues his lumbar puncture treatments and he takes his chemo meds at home, with weekly clinic visits. Ben is holding up well. I am very impressed with how strong and brave he has become. He tells me he feels like he doesn’t have cancer. We are taking every day as it comes, because these treatments will be a 2-year process.
More than anything in my life, I wanted to be a mother. You never know when your life could take an unexpected turn, especially after hearing your only child has cancer. I was devastated but very impressed with how many caring people there are in this world that have reached out to me. After hearing the news, I wanted to hold and hug my little 8 year-old boy tight with knowing there is no way I could lose him. I have worked so hard to get to where I am today, all of the things that I have done for this boy, that there is no way cancer is going to end his life. When you’re a parent, all you want is the best for your child. I thought then and there, I would rather go through this than him. I have never left his side while our stay at the hospital, and each day I saw how brave, and strong Ben was becoming.
This has been a journey for us so far, even prior to finding out my son has cancer. I believe there is hope for Benjamin. He is a fighter, he will get through this, and carry on living his life doing all the things he loves. I am blessed to have all the support with PCFLV, family, friends, and hearing the stories of people who had cancer…knowing there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I am grateful for everyone we crossed paths with, who have shared their stories of cancer…friends, Ben’s teacher, and my college. It gives me more hope my brave boy Benjamin will be cured from his cancer.
Written by his mom, Holly