Abby’s Story: Trying to Make Things Normal

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Each day a different guest blogger will be featured who will generously share their personal experience with childhood cancer.  Stories are always more potent than statistics.     

By Patty Furco 

I quite literally just pooped my pants. I am trying to make it feel like a “normal” morning at our house, but who am I kidding, the above statement shows that inside, it is so not.
My daughter Abby is in the PICU hooked up to massive amounts of IV pain medicine, enough that would make you or I stop breathing almost instantly.  She is preparing for air transport from our local hospital to her new post-transplant care hospital.
ABBY1
My husband is taking his 24 hour shift with Abby at the hospital, while I’m at home with our two other daughters. I’m trying to make things normal for them, making breakfast, planning a fun quick trip to the nearby beach for a touch of fun before I leave them to go on the air transport with their sister. I then take the little one to her planned camp afternoon, my eldest and I go to lunch and shop. I’m loving on them as much as I can, and even when a store clerk asks “How are you doing today?” I actually answered “Doing good thank you.”
It struck me when I heard myself say that…actually things really aren’t good, but I’m trying to be strong & “normal” here for my 11 year old that I’m soon leaving to go in a plane with my other daughter on multiple IV pain medications due to complications caused by her bone marrow transplant in January. HA. That shop clerk really wouldn’t want to hear that. So “doing fine” or “good” suffices.
Our family has been doing this for 4 1/2 years, with a small break between end of treatment & relapse. Our four year old knows nothing different. Our oldest is learning more and more each day. And most importantly, our daughter Abby, the patient, is SO ready for this all to be done with.
We are all just on autopilot. Get things done. People always ask “How do you do it?” We just do. There is no other option. My husband and I, together, we just get it done. We balance Abby’s needs & care, are her best advocates, and try hard to balance the other girls as well.
We are blessed to be surrounded by an amazingly supportive family, both blood related and those we call family that are not blood. Our community, wherever we may be (currently we are at our fourth hospital), surrounds us with love, care & support in so many ways.
We could not be luckier in that way.
So yes, on Tuesday I may have literally pooped in my pants thinking about what was yet to come that day, but I pulled myself together, had a nice morning oceanside with donuts for the other girls, went back to school shopping with the oldest while the youngest was doing her thing at camp, then drove to the hospital to get into the jet to transport Abby and I to her transplant docs for specialized care. All in days work.
I share this tiny glimpse of our story today because the need for Childhood Cancer Awareness is needed. Childhood Cancer is real and affects many families. Seven kids are diagnosed each day.
Our kids need research for cures. The lack of federal funding is astounding (4% of the federal budget for all cancer research), and applications of adult research to children isn’t as effective as direct children’s research is.
My daughter is alive today because of protocols created through childhood cancer research, both her initial battle of PH+ ALL (leukemia) and a relapse of the same, resulting in a bone marrow transplant in January.
For that we cannot be more thankful, but we need more research for those childhood cancers that do not have protocols that have success rates, for the children suffering like Abby, from severe long term side effect due to their treatments, for all kids and families batting his devastating disease, and for those not yet even diagnosed.
Our Abby is here with us, and for that, I cannot be more happy. But each and every day right now, she is fighting for a better quality of life. We will stand side by side with her until the fight is won.
Let’s fight the fight today to help improve the lives of those battling now and in the future. Fewer families should have to endure this. It’s like the roller coaster that doesn’t end and you can’t get off.
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Patty Furco is Mom to three daughters and a volunteer for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.  You can donate to St. Baldrick’s HERE.
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