Survivor: Noun – a person who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition or setbacks. One who carries on despite hardships or trauma.
Today, May 20th 2016, our amazing 6 year old girl is a SURVIVOR. It has been 5 years to the day that she completed her chemotherapy treatment for Acute Myeloid Leukemia. When we left our security blanket of continual access to doctors, our team of nurses who became family and the daily reassuring blood checks, we were shell shocked. Our baby was in our arms, free from tubes with peach fuzz starting to grow back on her beautiful bald head, but the thought of life after cancer and re-entry into our old life was daunting. What the f just happened? What now?
We were told, Reagan is in remission. The cancer was gone but our journey was not over. Our new goal was 5 years – survivorship. Every day that she remained cancer free was a step towards the ultimate goal. We had weekly blood checks, which soon moved to bi-weekly, then monthly, etc. As they got further and further apart, you want to breathe a little easier, but the anxiety only heightened. What if we miss something in these next 6 weeks? Is that a bruise? Her eyes look darker than usual. Half a decade to feel relieved and to be free from this nightmare? Five years seemed like an eternity.
We had a huge bash for her 2nd birthday a few months later. People circled around as we sang happy birthday to our spikey-headed little girl while I fought back the tears as I hugged and kissed her. Thank you God for letting us reach this milestone.
We hit the one year mark and we breathed a little more. A year is a big hurdle. 365 days away from cancer. Life was moving on! Reagan started pre-school and dance classes. Her hair was growing and her sassy sense of humor was blossoming. Thank you God for letting us get to know her amazing personality.
Over the years we have had friends receive the devastating news that their child has cancer. We’ve learned that other friends are crushed with a relapse. And worst of all, we’ve lost some of our little friends. We’ve watched fellow cancer parents endure the worst loss imaginable. We’ve cried, hugged her a little longer, held her a little tighter. We’ve prayed; please God, be with them all now.
We blinked our eyes and this little spitfire was registering for Kindergarten. Her backpack was bigger than her and she waltzed into that school like she owned the joint. Thank you God for letting her experience that joy.
She is an artist. Her drawings and creative mind are of one that far surpasses her age. She is kind and cuddly. She is incredibly insightful, saying things that stop us in our tracks multiple times a week wondering how many times she’s walked this earth; where has she been, what has she seen? She is wildly inappropriate and has one of THE best senses of humor I have ever known. Thank you God for enabling her to share her gifts with all of us.
As we celebrate this amazing milestone, my thoughts are flooded with all of the people that helped us along this journey. Our amazing oncologist who from day one gave me the blessed words: “bitter or better, the choice is yours;” I hope we’ve made you proud and that we continue to seek the better path in life. The faces of our dozens of nurses that helped bring our baby back to us and maintain her health over the past 5 years; we will forever be indebted to you. The amazing support, love and prayers of family and friends all over the country; we resolve to pay forward the gift of hope you gave us to others in need.
And, most importantly, my thanks and gratitude to our little hero. Reagan, you showed me what true grit and determination look like, even as a toddler. You strengthened my faith in humanity and showed me the pure goodness in people. You helped me find an inner strength I didn’t know I had. You taught me to find the silver lining in even the darkest of clouds. Thank you God for every minute of every day I have with you.
Who better than the little lady herself to wrap up this journey in her own words:
“I tried hard to beat cancer and it worked! I feel really proud of myself because I beat cancer. I am thankful that I don’t have it anymore and I pray for the people who have cancer now. For the kids who do have cancer, I hope you feel better and I hope you beat it like I did.”