Survival training | Front Porch | Indy Week
Pin It

Survival training 

click to enlarge frontporch.jpg

On Oct. 10, 2006, our 3-year-old son Esten was diagnosed with leukemia. As has so often happened during this experience, we dodged a bullet: He has acute lymphocytic leukemia, with more than a 90 percent chance of complete remission. Other forms of the disease, such as acute myelogenous leukemia, have a much lower survivability rate.

"I never thought I'd tell somebody's parents that their kid has the good cancer," a pediatric oncology ward nurse told me as she stood in our hospital room's doorway.

On the day of Esten's diagnosis, we were told about the treatment course, including all the different (though remote) ways his medication could kill him. As bewildered as we were, we understood that there was no alternative. The "induction phase" hosed him down with chemotherapy. Steroids made him blow up like the Michelin Man; unresponsive to tickles and highly emotional. His legs became weak from the weight and under-use. My friend Jill remembers the time as "when Esten could only crawl around and cry."

In November and December, he was hospitalized five times in six weeks. Once was for chicken pox. We couldn't understand how he caught it, living such a hermetic life. The doctors speculated the normally inactive virus in his vaccine took advantage of his virtually nonexistent immune system.

By November, there were no detectable traces of the leukocytes in Esten's marrow. He was in remission.

The treatment gradually backed off in intensity. The chemo kept coming, sometimes as a home infusion. We would push the stuff from a syringe into the obscene umbilical line that fed into a catheter placed under the skin near his heart. It was a hard sell convincing him that this "medicine" would make him feel better, when we both knew it was the opposite.

"I don't know how you do it," friends would say. "I don't think I could handle it as well as you."

"You don't know how you'll act under fire until the bullets start flying," I replied.

Esten is in "long-term maintenance" now. He's back in school and thriving. He will be on this treatment course of mild doses of chemo and the occasional spinal tap until 2010. Then it will be a waiting game, to see if the leukemia comes back. The longer it stays away, the better the chance it will never return. We won't really know if he's beaten it until sometime in 2015.

By the spring, Esten was well enough to play outside. He and his sister climbed on the lowest branches of the big magnolia in the yard. Esten cautiously walked down a wide branch toward the ground. "Help me, Daddy!" he said, in mock distress. I made a show of holding his hand as he stepped off onto the brittle floor of leaves. He turned and looked up at me.

"Thank you for saving my life," he said.

"You're welcome," I managed, steadying myself on a branch.

  • On Oct. 10, 2006, our 3-year-old son Esten was diagnosed with leukemia.

Latest in Front Porch

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Front Porch

  • One vote

    • Nov 12, 2014
  • Box of one

    Was I paying to be helped or to feel important, a bona fide expert on only myself?
    • Sep 24, 2014
  • The Old South (Hills)

    The Old South (Hills)

    • Sep 17, 2014
  • More »


Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

'Anna Lee' is a truly beautiful song, Ms Dossett. And I love Levon Helm's rendition. You are blessed with a …

by Byron Miller on A song for Levon (Front Porch)

Just now seeing this....Liz and I were super close friends in the early 80s. She was so special. I had …

by RoBert 1 on In memoriam: Liz Holm, 1959–2013 (Front Porch)

Nobody will be surprised to learn that Hocutt never went to Nam. He was in the Navy but washed out …

by Jefflenter on Raleigh bad boy no more (Front Porch)

I see his concern. Yes, it was a well written story and showed his caring side for sure. But not …

by Linda Bates Terrell on Motorcycle men (Front Porch)

Follow-up to my "nervous mom" comment. The last coupe of weeks we have been in many situations with individuals that …

by paulapowers on Governor's School blues (Front Porch)

Comments

'Anna Lee' is a truly beautiful song, Ms Dossett. And I love Levon Helm's rendition. You are blessed with a …

by Byron Miller on A song for Levon (Front Porch)

Just now seeing this....Liz and I were super close friends in the early 80s. She was so special. I had …

by RoBert 1 on In memoriam: Liz Holm, 1959–2013 (Front Porch)

Most Read

  1. Drawn to Durham (Peripheral Visions)
  2. What Makes a Farm a Farm? (Back Talk)

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation