This stressful, emotional, rocky journey all started about 6 weeks ago, when our beautiful, cheeky, kind-hearted Edward (or Ned) landed a bit hard off the end of a slide - which I didn't actually witness. He cried a bit, and then walked off and kept playing. Later on that day, he started whingeing, limping, and then resorted to crawling. I thought it a soft tissue injury, which would heal with rest and Nurofen, etc. 4 days later, he was still complaining and refusing to walk, so I took him to his GP. X-rays and exam revealed nothing, but we put a cast on anyway - just in case.
The X-ray a week later revealed nothing again, so the cast came off, but after a few days, still wasn't improving. I brought him back 4 days later (feeling a bit over-the-top!) and we were referred to the orthopedic service in town. They assessed him a few days after, and deemed it a healing ankle fracture, which wasn't visible on films.
He then got quite sick - with just a viral croup+cold-type thing - but he was worse than I'd ever seen him. And since I happened to be studying for my upcoming medical exams at the time, I had just done childhood leukaemias, and the thought crossed my mind, but I thought I was just being a "melodramatic, over-worrying, pessimistic doctor".
All this time, though, my worry and concern was rising and causing great emotion and sleep deprivation.
He recovered eventually from his cough and cold, but still wasn't walking, and in fact, was regressing - refusing to weightbear. By this time, having seen specialists, had normal scans, and thinking the actual incident was minor, I started thinking it was a behavioural refusal to walk, so I coaxed and assisted him, against his will, on several occasions - something I deeply regret.
Getting to the 5-week mark, with no improvement (and, in fact, regression) made me stress enough to refer him to our paediatrician - who very kindly read my concerned letter and fitted us in 2 days later, despite being booked out for weeks. She was similarly concerned, and so ordered a bone scan and blood tests for the next day - Friday, the 25th July.
Needless to say, after a long day in the hospital doing these tests, these results were the ones that revealed Ned's diagnosis of leukaemia.
It was awful - Ned having had a bone scan (and so emitting radiation) meant that pregnant me couldn't be near him for 6-8 hours afterwards... So Seth was on one side of the room with Ned, and I was on the other when the paediatrician showed me the bloods and told us the diagnosis. There's that saying "walls come crashing down", and they really do... That little, giggling, rosy-cheeked munchkin in the corner was so very sick - in contrast to what his appearance suggested... And he was so very unconcerned about our tears and grief.
The following 45 minutes was filled with information, meeting oncology staff, and learning routines and plans - which are to become our lives for the next (at least) 3.5 years.
The grief came in different emotions - in bursts... The trauma and challenges ahead that Ned was facing, the fact that he was so sick, the sadness for Lucy when she couldn't have her beloved little brother at home, the impact on our lives physically, the ceasing of my work (for the time being), the psychological impact on all (3!) kids, my parents being so far away (in Congo) and unable to cuddle their dear grandson, the potential negative effects on my study for my upcoming major fellowship medical exams (2 weeks after diagnosis), our plans to travel and work overseas...
I had been used to being the doctor - on the other side...