It happened the summer of 2013, and I’ve never written about it because I get agita just typing the title.
“Agita” is a New York expression. It comes from the Italian word for “stomach ache,” but New Yorkers use it to mean terrible agitation or anxiety. It’s like me saying “that skeeves me” when something is gross, or immediately using the expression “mothah fuckah” when I drive. New York style, with the “er” dropped.
Little Dude was in sleep away camp August of 2013. When the Ex and I went there on visiting day, my kid was in the infirmary. He had some kind of virus that was causing him agonizing stomach pain.
Kids get sick at sleepaway camp. They catch stuff from each other; from the woods, from the lake. He’s come home from there with impetigo, which totally skeeved me. But this was serious – more serious than something to be treated in the camp infirmary. We piled blankets and pillows in the car, and drove my son home.
In rapid succession, we went from the pediatrician’s office to the ER to having him admitted to the hospital.
In between bouts of excruciating stomach pain, my son was completely lethargic. His was drained of all color and had a steady fever. He couldn’t even hold down fluids.
I spent that night with him in the hospital. It was a horrible night for both of us. There’s nothing that makes you feel quite as helpless as watching your child suffer brutal pain.
Early the next morning, the doctor arrived to examine my son. As she was feeling his abdomen, I detected a flicker of something in her expression. She asked my Ex and me if we could speak to her in the hallway.
“I’m going to have him transferred by ambulance to a specialized hospital, where they have a pediatric lymphoma clinic. I want him seen by the pediatric oncologist there.”
THE WORST WORDS A PARENT CAN EVER HEAR.
My feet gave out from under me. I would have plummeted to the floor, but my Ex was holding onto my arm, so I did a slow slide down, and collapsed there. I began hyperventilating. There wasn’t enough oxygen in the hallway and I was suffocating. Tears streamed down my face.
The doctor knelt down to eye level with me.
“Are you going to ride in the ambulance with him?” she asked.
“Then you need to pull yourself together for him. He cannot see you like this.”
She was not unkind, but she was businesslike. She understood that in that moment, what mattered most was keeping my son from being terrified.
We formulated a plan of what we were going to tell him (“we need to go to a bigger hospital, they want different doctors to check you, you’re going to ride in an ambulance! How cool is that!”)
Shit like that. Shit you say to a 10-year-old kid, instead of “We have to go to a pediatric oncology ward because you might have lymphoma.”
I spent the next five days and nights in my son’s hospital room. I never left. My Ex went back and forth, grabbing a shower and some fresh clothes each day, and I probably should have done that. A hot shower might have helped clear my mind. But the drive to my house and back was about 90 minutes, and that was too long to be away from my kid.
One minute was too long to be away from him.
My bestie drove down from upstate New York to sit with me. She got there just in time to see me go all Shirley MacLaine / Terms of Endearment on the nurses when my son was howling and convulsing with pain, and I screamed at them to give him intravenous morphine.
Doctor after doctor examined him. They administered every test imaginable. On two different occasions the doctors brought in groups of interns to speculate as to what he had. I felt like I was in an episode of House, only with way less sexy doctors.
The first two days, Little Dude was so gravely ill he couldn’t watch television or even speak to me. That’s when I was the most terrified. Little Dude never shuts up.
SOMEONE PLEASE PLEASE TELL ME WHAT IS WRONG WITH MY CHILD.
I found myself making deals with God. “Please, let me have cancer and not my son. Please.”
My kid went through hell before they eventually diagnosed him with mesenteric lymphadenitis. It’s an inflammation of the lymph nodes in the intestines. The virus he’d contracted was so severe, his lymph glands had swelled to where the pain was intolerable. They weren’t even sure how he’d contracted it, since not one single other camper had it. After five days, he was released.
I’m not being dramatic when I tell you that I would not want to live in a world without my son.
Not every parent is this lucky.
Dorian Murray is an 8-year-old boy who has spent half his life bravely battling rhabdomyosarcoma. It’s a rare pediatric cancer, and his treatments are no longer working. Shortly after New Year’s, he decided to spend his remaining time with his family
His dying wish is to be famous, even in China. And thus the #DStrong movement began.
All over the world, people are taking pictures holding up signs to show Dorian that he has found his way into our hearts.
Rachel of www.misfitsmountainmama.com reached out to some of her writing friends and asked us to flood the internet with Dorian love and BLOW THIS HASHTAG UP!
If you’d like, please write something inspired by this badass little warrior.
Whatever you do, you can join up us with the #DStrong linkey thing on Darla’s blog.
Tonight, hug your children so, so tight. And never let go.
Talk to me. I’m listening.