BATTLING CANCER. ONE MOTHER SHARES FOR THE FIRST TIME.
By Sarah Vermylen Trust
In early July 2011, we were excited for summer to start. We had moved to Long Island over the winter and were eager to enjoy fresh air and long days with family and friends. Our son Collin was two and three quarters and he was loving playing with his friends and his one year old sister, Josie. The only anxious thought floating around in the back of my mind was, “Why aren’t those bruises on Collin’s shins going away?”
receiving chemotherapy, it seems like an insurmountable amount of time. We were told that although he had a higher risk type of ALL, his prognosis was good. Seventy years ago, ALL was a death sentence. Now, the cure rate is almost 90%.
After watching Collin’s bruises for a week or so, that niggling thought turned into alarm bells when Collin had a playdate with a group of his friends. We lined them up for a picture, and despite the fact that all of the kids were just as rough and tumble as Collin was, none of them had bruises on their shins. I took Collin to the pediatrician the next day.
Collin’s treatment started on July 11th with the surgical insertion of a mediport in his chest where his chemo would be delivered intravenously. Prior to his surgery, the Child Life Specialist came to Collin’s room with a “chemo duck,” a stuffed animal with a mediport just like he would have. Teaching children about their treatments and helping relieve their anxiety is the main purpose of Child Life and we are so grateful to the team at Cohen’s.
The doctor agreed with my assessment: it was either nothing or it was something. He ordered a blood test and the next day there were voicemails on our cell phones, our house phone and my husband’s work phone. My husband called the pediatrician who said, “You need to take Collin to Cohen Children’s Medical Center ER right now.” The pediatrician said his platelets were dangerously low and his hemoglobin was too. He said, “When we see low platelets and hemoglobin like this, we think leukemia.” Collin checked into Cohen Children’s Medical Center’s pediatric hematology/oncology ward that night: Med 4. It was the first of our 28 days there. The following morning, we met Dr. Jonathan Fish, who we are forever thankful was the attending on service at Cohen’s that day. He performed a bone marrow aspiration on Collin and that evening Dr. Fish and Ingrid MacFarlane, a social worker for the hematology-oncology group, asked us to follow them to the conference room. It seemed like that walk took forever. My husband and I both knew that being taken to a conference room was not a good thing. Collin was diagnosed with Pre-B Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, ALL. His treatment would last a little over three years. When you hear your two and threequarter year old will spend the next three years of his life
Teaching children about their treatments and helping relieve their anxiety is the main purpose of Child Life and we are so grateful to the team at Cohen’s.
When it came time to bring him into the OR, I did the best acting job of my entire life. I pointed out all of the cool pictures they had on the walls and talked about how silly everyone looked in their outfits. Collin was amazing. I broke down as I walked out the door. When we saw Collin in recovery, he was groggy and confused. He was also now officially On Treatment. The first month of treatment was the hardest for everyone. They basically throw every type of chemo at you at once to give patients the best chance of remission and survival. Steroids were also on the menu, which meant our sweet boy was cranky and ravenous. He would eagerly await the arrival of the lunch cart on Med 4 and make sure he had a sufficient number of hot dogs to satisfy him. At times, he was double-fisting Panera grilled cheese. The nurses told us to let him eat since there would be plenty of times in the future when he wouldn’t be able to. Collin spent almost all of induction woodbury SUMMER 2018 | 81