The Family Diagnosis

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When someone is diagnosed with cancer, the ripple effect of that diagnosis goes a long way. I didn’t think much past Bastian when we got the news, because the cancer was his, his life was at stake, his body was under attack. I had yet to find out the impact this disease was going to have on the rest of the family.

The day we drove to St. Louis, we thought we were just going to have the docs rule out leukemia. What was intended to be a day trip to the clinic ended up being a week-long stay, full of tests and biopsies and the placement of Bastian’s first central line. His cancer was given a name, and we were given a treatment plan, which included weeks of in-patient chemo, and surgeries, all to prepare for a bone marrow transplant, which was going to require him to stay at least a month in the hospital. A hospital that was 3 hours away from home. Fortunately, my parents lived less than 20 minutes from the hospital, so we had family and a place to stay nearby when we were there. Bastian and I were covered.

But what about everyone else?

My family, my job, my friends… They all had to take a back seat to what was going on. The job and friends part was easy; everyone understood and we were given nothing but support. However, the family part was not so simple. Sure, Gabbi and Maddux understood that their brother was very sick and needed help. But how well does a 15 and 7 year old really take their mother being away from them 2 weeks out of the month? The stress and strain to keep balance in an unbalanced situation became almost unbearable. I am grateful for my partner, and my friends and family for stepping up to fill my shoes while I was away so much during Bastian’s first year of treatment. I spent at least 7 months of that year in a hospital room with Bastian. Seven months that I was not there to see how everyone was really doing, how they were coping with the HUGE changes our family was going through.

It’s now been 29 months since Bastian’s diagnosis. We are on our 4th hospital. He has been through tons of chemo, a bone marrow transplant, 2 different kinds of radiation treatment in 2 different hospitals, a second line placement (due to his first getting infected), numerous tests and scans, and just recently had his 15th bilateral bone marrow biopsy (HUGE needle shoved into his hip bones). And all we’ve managed to do is keep his cancer from spreading. Haven’t improved it any, but at least it’s not getting worse. Prognosis is still the same for him.

And the rest of the family?

I’m seeing a counselor twice a month and have been put on anxiety medication. Maddux is seeing a counselor once a month to help him learn how to process his anger and sadness. Gabbi was just recently hospitalized due to depression and drug abuse, largely due to her not knowing how to deal with the feelings that come with a little brother with a terminal illness. My relationship with my partner has been very rocky lately, and probably also largely influenced by the stress of the reality our family has been thrown into. Bastian’s cancer is not just his. It’s a frightening journey that we’ve all been unfairly put on. His diagnosis belongs to all of us, because it touches all of us in our own ways. Knowing that we all aren’t going to make it out of this journey alive is a hard pill to swallow. It’s a pill that will choke us all if left unchecked.

I am desperately trying to keep my family together, because I know how much we need each other right now. We are all hanging on by a thread, but at least we are still hanging on together.