Countdown to Chemo

I found out I was pregnant with Gavin on Boxing Day, 2007.  Craig and I had just returned from a two-month jaunt around South America, which culminated in two weeks spent on the Galapagos Islands.  Unbeknownst to me, baby Bean was baking in the oven while I drank wine, went scuba-diving with hammerhead sharks and jumped off the top of the boat a couple of times.

I retrospectively freaked out about this behaviour once I found out, sure that I had damaged my little baby forever with a few glasses of cheap Ecuadorian swill.  For the rest of my pregnancy I did not consume one drop of alcohol, forbade smoking in my presence and did not dye my hair, take Advil, or use any moisturizers that weren’t entirely concocted of olive oil and shea butter.  I took a truckload of supplements and attended my prenatal yoga classes religiously while carting around a copy of Ina May Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery.  What I’m getting at is that I tried to go the natural route.

Once Gavin was born I policed the products that were used on him and went first to homeopathic remedies rather than Tempra.  I attempted to prevent him from chewing on plastic toys and eating and drinking from plastic bottles.  His diet has consisted of mostly vegetarian, organic food, and despite his initial health issues with his kidneys, up until now he has been a pretty happy, healthy and average toddler.  He had never once vomited up until 5 weeks ago.

Yet despite these efforts, we are where we are.  I could have fed him Coke and nothing but cheesies and still have ended up here.  I’m not saying that I regret those efforts, it’s just frustrating to think of those mums out there stuffing their wee ones full of KFC and living out their whole lives in relative, albeit chubby, health.

Now Gavin has been exposed to more  medication and radiation in the last couple of weeks than most of us are in a lifetime.  The kid gets x-rayed like, every other day. He’s had about 5 or 6 CT scans, 2 of them what they call CTV.  He’s had two MRIs under general, and then 6 different types of x-rays for various other things.  He’s had two other procedures done under x-ray, and of course, two brain surgeries.

As for the medication – he’s been on steroids, antacids, anti-nauseants, morphine, codeine, blood thinners, laxatives and Tylenol.  All of these, of course, will pale in comparison to the drugs he starts to receive tomorrow.  Chemo drugs. When we were first told about the course of treatment, I realized that I didn’t actually know what chemotherapy is. I mean, I had a vague notion and knew that one’s hair falls out and such but not why.  Now I think I’m starting to know far more than I ever wanted to.

So we begin the first course of six tomorrow.  After the first round of chemo, we may be able to go home for a couple of weeks, depending on how Gavin is doing.  I’ve got every digit crossed, hoping that this will happen.

We had to move to the oncology ward the other day, a move I dreaded, although they do have better views from the 8th floor.  Not that neurosurgery was a  party exactly, it had just become familiar.  Now we have to meet all new nurses and neighbours.  I’ve been happy so far though, to see some of the other kids cruising around the playroom with their IV stands, acting the way kids do, despite their frailty and lack of hair.  Some of them don’t even seem frail, but still look the picture of health, oddly.

Gavin too, has been pretty happy the past couple of days, cheerful to go for walks in his own stroller for the first time, happy to leave the floor for the first time and ride in the glass elevators, and, as Craig and I were overjoyed to see, willing to stand up in the little kitchen in the playroom, and make pancakes for us.

He’s been weakened by the past five weeks, that’s for sure, and looks like Baby Frankenstein from the back.  (Those surgeries have left their mark, but I hope when his hair grows back it may cover the scars somewhat)  Unfortunately, he still can’t eat proper food due to his swallow difficulties, which means he must, for the time being, be fed formula through an NG tube.  This is certainly a setback on the road to recovery, but we are still hopeful.

11 responses to “Countdown to Chemo”

  1. Colin M.

    It breaks my heart each time I read one of your entries, but am thankful for the updates. hopefully by sharing your thoughts with all those who care for you guys, and allowing us a glimpse of this difficult time, you know we are surrounding you with love. Thanks Erica. Be strong……much love to you, Craig and Gavin

  2. Susannah

    Be strong and please keep us posted. Thinking about you three each and every day. All our love, Susannah, Rene, and Grace

  3. Nadia

    Thanks for keeping us updated with your amazing writing – I’m thinking of you all the time and check your blog every day! xxxxx for you all.

  4. Sarah

    My wish is that all this medical lingo can eventually disappear from your minds and never again pass your lips…because it won’t need to. my wish is that Gavin’s physical scars will heal, his body and the chemo will fight away this disease, and then the memories will fade for him and he can begin once again to be an active, vibrant little boy free from the hospital and all these interventions. May this next stage pass smoothly and may it not be too difficult on his little body. We are thinking about you guys, all the time.

  5. Mairi

    We’ll be with you in prayer.

  6. Cindy F

    Thank you, Erica, for your words. I hope you can feel all of the positive thoughts and wishes we’re sending to you and Gavin and Craig.

  7. Amanda

    We are sending you, Craig & Gavin all our love and hoping that this next chapter helps heal Gavin quickly. I came by today to bring you a hug and was sorry that I didnt call first as I had missed you. Leo sends big hugs to his amigo and we are sending you love, strength and light.
    Amanda xoxoxo

  8. Carolyn

    You are such a good mom – so intelligent and caring and painstaking. Gavin is so lucky to have you as his advocate. Think of you and the whole family every single day.
    Love carolyn

  9. Uncle Graham

    We have nothing but positive thought for Gavin.

    He will come through this!

    Uncle Graham

  10. natalia

    Don, Shai and I are praying for Gavin and you and Craig. This life is a mystery. And love helps us be with that mystery when it casts a dark shadow. Light must be present for a shadow to occur…I hope that the light is coming through brighter every day. Big hugs

  11. Aaron


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