Thursday, July 13, 2017

When Hope is All I Have

      Today we took our thirteen-year-old daughter to the doctor's office for a health check up. We hadn't noticed anything wrong or symptoms that we should have been alerted by. Casey was what appeared to be a healthy active teenager. She was a straight-A student involved in student government and an athlete who participated in soccer and softball. She loved her life and had many friends. We were not prepared for what we were about to hear.
     While my husband drove us, Casey was in the backseat texting on her phone like she usually does. She was just beginning to explore the life of a teenager by talking about boys with her friends. We had already had that talk with her so we felt safe about any decisions that she would eventually have to make. She was a bright girl and we showed her that we trust her which made her that much happier.
     Once we made it to the doctor's office and my husband found a parking place, Casey couldn't wait to get inside and get this over with so she could get back to her friends who were waiting for her. We walked inside into the air conditioned reception area and up to the nurse's desk to check in. Casey had already found a seat by an electrical outlet to plug her phone into. We walked over and sat with her while we waited to be called.
     About fifteen minutes later, a nurse came out and called us back to an examination room. My husband grabbed a nearby magazine to read while waiting for the doctor to come in while Casey plugged into the nearest power outlet to charge her phone. I just sat and looked at our daughter and smiled. I felt so blessed to have such a perfect daughter.
     A few minutes later, the doctor walked in with Casey's file in his hand. He said his hello and we exchanged small chit chat before getting to Casey's health. He was pleased that Casey was in such good health and began his examination of her. He had her lay back on the exam table while he felt around her neck glands and made his way down her body checking everything.
     When he started feeling around her stomach, he noticed that Casey flinched a little. He began asking her questions about her eating habits, sleeping habits, and other things. Casey told him that she gets cramps every now and then and throws up on occasion. This concerned the doctor enough that he ordered some lab work because Casey was an early premenstrual teenager. She should not have lumps in her stomach.
     When we asked if there was a problem, he said that he was concerned about a small lump in her stomach. He said not to worry and that it might be nothing, but he wants some labs done to make sure. So, he sent us down the hall with Casey to get some blood work done and a few pictures of her stomach. He wanted to rule out everything possible.
     What should have been an easy health check up, now turned into hours of tests and waiting just to get results. We sat in the waiting room for about two hours waiting for the test results to come back to find out what was going on. Casey was getting anxious to leave and it was difficult to explain to her that we had to wait for the doctor.
     When the nurse finally called us back into an exam room again it was only a few minutes before the doctor came in and he wasn't alone. He had brought another doctor in with him and then my anxiety kicked into full gear. I wanted to blurt out questions but held my composure to see what they would say about our daughter's results.
     Our doctor informed us that they had gotten Casey's test results back and that he brought in another doctor for a second opinion. I quickly grabbed my husband's hand as we were told that my daughter had intestinal cancer. We were floored by this news. 
     Casey and I both broke out in tears while my husband went numb. We had so many questions but were dealing with grief at that moment. The doctors both informed us where it was and the damage it had already caused. They gave us different options as what type of treatment we were looking at. Casey was in third stage and it had already spread to some other places so treatment needed to begin immediately.
     The doctor requested that we admit her to the hospital today so that treatment could begin. We just looked at each other and then back to the doctors with the permission to go ahead with treatment. Our doctor informed us that he would send orders over to the hospital for Casey's admittance. We agreed to everything and after that, the doctor left the room.
     Once I realized what they were saying, I completely collapsed into my husband's arms. Casey sat in shock before letting the tears roll from her eyes. The first words out of her mouth were asking us if she was going to die? We tried everything to calm her down and ended with a group hug with everyone shedding tears.
     After about fifteen minutes of hugging and crying, we finally got ourselves together and walked out of the exam room. We were escorted out of the building by a nurse with some paperwork we needed to take to the hospital. It seemed like a very long walk to the car but we got to it and climbed inside. It took a few minutes of staring off into space before my husband started the car. 
     We pulled out of the parking lot and headed for the hospital. No one said a word the whole way over. I could hear the faint crying of our daughter from the back seat. I felt so bad at the moment and didn't know where to look for solace. I was not a religious person but quietly prayed to whoever might listen for the healing of my child.
      We finally reached the hospital and found it a little difficult to find somewhere to park but we finally found a spot. We parked and once everyone was outside of the car, we hugged our daughter as we walked towards the hospital entrance. We were all scared but my husband and I had to be strong for Casey.
     Once inside, we went straight to admissions with the paperwork from the doctor and went through the process of admitting our cancer-stricken daughter. It was breaking my heart to see my child have to go through this. We were finally registered and given a room. A nurse came and met us at admissions to show us to her room. We walked across the entire hospital before reaching the cancer center of the hospital.
     We were shown to her room and watched as the nurse filled out the whiteboard with information before handing Casey a hospital gown to put on. When the nurse walked out, my husband followed so that I could help Casey get situated. We got her changed and in the bed before calling for my husband. When he came back inside, he looked at Casey and broke into tears apologizing for everything that she is going to have to go through like he did something wrong which caused her to get cancer.
     We sat while Casey channel surfed with the television before a nurse came in and put an IV line into Casey's arm. I could not bear it to see my daughter go through pain because she has never had an IV before. She cried out a little while the IV was being put in. After that, the nurse gave us some information and instructions that Casey was going to have a biopsy in the morning so she will not be able to eat anything after eight o'clock tonight.
     When Casey heard that, she quickly asked me to call for some food because she was hungry. I just smiled at her as I asked my husband if he wanted anything to eat to which he said that he was not hungry. So, I reached for the phone and ordered some food for us to eat. It didn't take long before it was arriving and Casey could not wait. It made me a little at ease that she still had an appetite.
     The room that they gave us had a twin bed in it also for someone to stay with Casey while she was here. My husband decided that I should be the one to stay with her because he had to work to keep paying the bills. I hated that we were going to be separated but what could we have done? 
     It was getting late after we had eaten everything ordered and it was about five minutes to eight, so my husband informed us that he was going to leave to go home and that he would be back after work tomorrow. He leaned down and kissed me and then Casey before walking out the door. Casey and I acted like it was a slumber party and laid together on her bed watching television before she fell asleep.
     Once she was asleep, I quietly got up and headed over to the twin bed to call it a night. Tomorrow was going to be a difficult day and with my husband at work, I had to deal with everything alone. I laid on the bed while watching television before closing my eyes and falling asleep myself.
     The next morning, I woke to a nurse in the room taking her vitals and then getting her ready to go for her biopsy procedure. Casey was awake and smiling as if nothing was wrong and I knew my daughter was a fighter. When they were ready to take her, I gave my daughter a kiss on the forehead and told her I will be here waiting for her return. I stood there watching as they wheeled her out of the room before I collapsed to the floor sobbing for my daughter's life.
     About forty-five minutes later, they brought Casey back into the room slightly sedated and placed her back into bed. I got up and stood by her side holding her hand quietly talking to her until she gently opened her eyes and looked up at me. I asked her how she was feeling and she mumbled that she was sleepy, so I told her to go to sleep and I would be here when she wakes up.
     I sat watching her as she slept before my husband walked into the room. I told him that I was waiting for the doctor to come in and give us the test results. He walked over and leaned down giving his daughter a kiss on the forehead. We sat together waiting what seemed like hours before the doctor walked into the room.
     He came in and greeted us while he checked on Casey as well. He said that her test results came back and that she was in stage three cancer. At that moment, I felt like I was going to be sick and collapsed into my husband's arms. How could this have happened? She was such a good girl. The doctor also informed us that he wanted to begin chemotherapy immediately to buy her some more time.
     We agreed to let him start chemotherapy and hoped that it would buy us some more time with our daughter. She was only thirteen and had not even experienced life yet. So the doctor left the room and in about an hour, a nurse came in and gave us instructions, pamphlets, and answered our questions regarding chemotherapy. I appreciated the help and information but nothing could help the breaking heart in my chest.
     We were told that her chemotherapy would begin in the morning and to prepare ourselves for all of the side effects that come with it. How would our daughter face these side effects and survive I thought to myself. My husband had gone numb for a few minutes over the whole ordeal. It was breaking his heart to know that his little girl is going to die before him.
     After giving us the information, the nurse left the room and soon after Casey was waking up. We quickly went to her bedside to show her we were still there. She opened her eyes and gave us a big smile. I found it difficult to tell her the news but I knew I had too.
     I began telling her what the results were and about her chemotherapy beginning in the morning. She began to cry as we told her the rest of the information so that she can prepare herself. She wasn't sure how to respond or feel what we had told her. All she knew is that she could die.
     We spent the rest of the day with her and my husband even went out to get us some take out food. She was not on a special diet or anything so we shared a meal together in her hospital room. After that, we sat together and watched a few movies before the nurse came in and gave her some medication to help her sleep and one that will help calm the side effects of the chemotherapy in the morning.
     It wasn't long before Casey fell asleep and my husband would head home to get some sleep before having to go to work in the morning. We kissed each other and hugged like it would be the last time before he left for the night. I hated to see him go but I knew we still had bills to pay at home. I sat watching television for awhile longer and every now and then looking over at my daughter's angelic face as she slept. I grew tired soon after and made myself comfortable on that twin bed before drifting off to sleep.
     The next morning when I woke from sleep, I looked over and found that my daughter had already been taken for her chemo treatment. I frantically paced around the room waiting for her return. It had been about thirty-five minutes when they wheeled my daughter back into the room. She was very pale looking and seemed to be feeling some nausea while they helped her back into the bed. I sat at her side holding her hand while also having the hospital tub close by in case she had to vomit.
     I felt so bad that my child had to endure this situation and could only give her my strength and support that she needed. I watched as she went in and out of sleep only to vomit several times throughout the day. The nurse would come in over the course of the day giving her medication to help with nausea and it broke my heart every time she bent over the tub to vomit.
     Later in the evening, my husband would show up after work with some food for us to eat and I would tell him how the day went. You could see that he felt every bit of pain for his daughter seeing her waste away in skin color and weight loss. He felt so bad but would never let her see it. He just smiled and read her stories trying to make her smile and feel better, but she had accepted what was happening to her and just wanted to spend every minute of time with us that she could.
     I soon began hating everything that was taking my daughter from us and I was not afraid to show it. If there was a God, he too was yelled and screamed at because my daughter should not have to endure the pain that was inflicted upon her. I began showing hatred for everything around us even though it was not their fault. My husband had no choice but to try and calm me down which took almost every ounce of his being.
     I knew at some point I would have to accept the fact that my child was going to die and that I needed to be there for her, even after she took her last breath. It became very surreal for me and that I did everything I could to protect my daughter from harm's way but then this happened. So, every day I had to face my dying child with a smile even though I was dying with her on the inside.
     It was a few weeks of Casey being in the hospital doing chemotherapy before releasing her to go home. The chemo was making very little progress and that her cancer was very aggressive as well. Our daughter did not give up though. She maintained a positive attitude throughout the whole ordeal and was happy and relieved that she was going home.
     Once the nurse came in and had us sign all of her discharge papers, the doctor came in to speak with us. He informed us that with chemotherapy not working as well as expected that Casey only had months left. He also stated that he was sending hospice to our home with Casey to help out and to keep her comfortable. Once again, I collapsed into my husband's arms crying that I was losing my child.
     Casey heard everything the doctor said and spoke up telling us to be happy that they still have a few months with her and that they should be happy that soon she will not be in any more pain. I looked over at her and began to feel my heart melt because even though she was young, she had the mind and soul of an adult facing her challenge.
     I walked over to her side and reached for her hand smiling at her letting her know that she would not face death alone. After getting her prescriptions and paperwork done, we followed her out of the hospital as they wheeled her to the front door where my husband would meet us with the car. I was happy to be taking my child home and used that for my strength.
     We got her inside the car and headed for home. First, we had to stop off at the local ice cream shop because our daughter had a craving for some ice cream. We found out that it was a comfort food for all of us and what made Casey happy and feel good, also made me happy and feel good. So, the ice cream shop was good for all of us.
     After having the best ice cream in the whole world we got back into our car and made the trip home. We finally pulled into the driveway when we noticed a group of kids hanging out with signs telling Casey to get better and that she was missed. When I looked upon those children's faces, I couldn't help but feel their sorrow and know that they truly meant what their signs said.
     Once we got the car parked and started getting out, the children ran over to see Casey and asked how she was doing. It was a heartfelt moment that so many people cared about our daughter. Some of the older boys actually helped Casey out of the car and into her wheelchair. She used the wheelchair because the chemo was making her very weak. It was so nice to see everyone wanting to help her that it made me tear up just a bit.
     Once inside the house, the children hung out while my husband and I made them a snack. We watched and listened as they all laughed and played together. It was so nice to see our daughter smiling and having fun that all we could do was embrace each other and feel their joy. We took snacks over to them and sat listening to all of their large tales and laughed with them.
     Soon after everyone left, it was time for dinner, so I made Casey's favorite dish of lasagna. We sat down at the table and began eating and discussing how much fun Casey had with her friends. What was meant to be a long day turned into something we had not had in a while which was laughter and happiness. The meal was delicious and everyone got stuffed before Casey had to run to the bathroom to vomit. That was not a good sign we thought to ourselves.
     When Casey came out from the bathroom, she was looking a little more pale than usual and we quickly asked her if she was alright? She just nodded as she held her hand over her stomach and said that she wanted to go lay down. I quickly got up and helped her down the hallway to her room where she climbed into bed and laid there very quietly.
     As I turned off her light and began closing the door to her bedroom, I found myself asking God for his forgiveness. I did not mean anything I said derogatory towards him earlier back in the hospital and I knew I was wrong. I only asked God that he take care of our child after she is taken from us. After saying what I needed to say, I instantly felt a sense of peace come over me and then I knew that God heard me.
     I went to bed that night feeling peaceful and calm. Hope was all I had that my child will be taken care of once she leaves this earth. It was enough to allow me to sleep somberly in my bed with the hope of another day with Casey. She was the only child we had and was a blessing to us when she was born because I was told I could not have children. She has truly been a blessing to our house and especially to me.
     The next morning I woke up to a bad gut feeling and quickly got out of bed and went to Casey's room. She appeared to be asleep but I needed to check on her anyway. I walked over to her bedside and reached down feeling her forehead. It was very hot but when I touched the rest of her, she seemed cold to the touch. I immediately called my husband and told him I was taking Casey back to the hospital.
     Once I was off of the phone with him, I called for an ambulance to take my daughter and myself to the hospital where my husband would be meeting us. It took them about seven minutes to reach our house and putting my daughter inside the ambulance. Her pulse was very weak and shallow and the thoughts of my daughter dying on the way were too exhausting to think of.
     They got her into the ambulance and we were headed for the hospital. I called her doctor and told him we were on our way and what was going on. He would meet us there as soon as possible. We arrived at the hospital in what seemed like forever was only about ten minutes and they worked quickly to get her inside the emergency room and into a trauma bay.
     We got into the trauma room and they began working on my daughter and soon after my husband walked inside the room. The was so much going on that they escorted us from the room while they took care of our child. It was about an hour later that the doctor walked up to us in the waiting room to give us the news.
     When I saw the look on the doctors face I thought the worst was coming. He walked up to us and began telling us that our daughter didn't have much time left. The cancer has become even more aggressive and she is going into organ failure. My heart broke apart because we thought that we had more time to prepare for the end, but we didn't.
     We were devastated by the news as he finished telling us what was going on. He was admitting her to the hospital where she would spend her last days and I just wanted to fall apart. He allowed us to go into the trauma room where she was until they move her to a room. Our daughter looked so ill almost to the point of her being deceased already.
     As I looked upon my daughter's once angelic face, you could not help but see all of the tubes and wires hooked to her frail body. I felt so bad for her and wanted to do whatever I could to hold her and take it all away. I felt so helpless and wanted her to live, but that was not going to be possible. Cancer was beating her and eating her body alive.
     It was about an hour later that they came in to move her to a room and we followed directly behind. Our daughter was fighting for her life and barely hanging on and the only thing I could think about was that my hope for her was strong enough to carry her into the next life. My husband did all he could to hold back the tears he was feeling as he watched his daughter slowly slipping away from us.
     We got situated in her room and sat quietly with her waiting for her to wake up. Her body was exhausted and you could see it. I sat holding her hand and talking softly to her that it was okay to let go. She had fought more than her body could handle and that she could move on to the next place where she could be happy and free from pain and suffering.
     Being that we were not so much religious, we did call for a chaplain to come and pray over our daughter peace and rest on her journey over the rainbow. That is what we always told our daughter, that when people or animals die that their spirit flies over the rainbow to a paradise land. We believed that with all of our heart.
     It wasn't long it seemed before the chaplain came in and introduced himself. He was a non-denominational chaplain and respected our wishes and before he could pray over our daughter, the doctor walked in with more information. As we sat holding each other's hands, the doctor informed us that before when they did the scans they did not see where all the cancer was located. He just got more results from new scans and that the cancer had infiltrated her intestines, colon, and parts of her liver. Her prognosis was grim and that the doctor only gave her a couple of days left.
     With this dire news, we sat staring at our daughter crying and wishing that we could take her place. All of our efforts to protect our daughter have failed. I felt every ounce of my being just drain away and I felt so defeated and weak. I knew my daughter was a strong fighter but this battle she would never win.
     We sat with bowed heads as the chaplain began praying over our daughter and all I had left was hope that she would be happy in her new home. The chaplain prayed for about twenty minutes before offering his condolences and then leaving the room. I felt very sad because I was losing my baby but had a sense of peace come over me.
     For the next few days we watched as our lifeless daughter began to fade away. Her monitors showed her respiration and heart rate were slowing and we knew that the time was coming to say goodbye. We both got up and stood on each side of her bed holding her cold lifeless hands as her heart rate started to diminish until the heart monitor flat lined and she was gone.
     I couldn't do anything but hold her hand, caress her angelic face, and cry. My child had left us and there was an empty feeling inside me as they came in and unhooked all the life support from her. Her father and I both leaned down to her placing a kiss on her forehead before they covered her with the sheet and removed her from the room.
     She was taken down to the morgue and prepped for us to send the funeral home for her. We had already made the arrangements with the funeral home so they were waiting for us to let them know when to come get her. We still could not believe our baby girl was gone and it took every bit of strength we had to let her go.
     The funeral was going to be a few days out and the only thing at this point that I could do was to go home and sit in her room looking around at all her stuff. Slowly I began packing her stuff away as I reminisced of all the good times we had. It took me a few days to get everything packed away and then the day of the funeral came.
     There were many people who showed up to pay their respects and many of her classmates were there in tears for the loss of their friend. I could feel their despair and loss and my heart went out to them. As the service ended and they began lowering our child into the ground, I felt a piece of me going with her. We said our final goodbyes and all we had remaining was hope. Hope that are child is in a better place, and hope that she is happy and carefree. This is what happens when hope is all I have.

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