Monday, January 25, 2010

A Mother's Worst Nightmare - Day 4 - Uncertain Future and A Newly Found Passion

I extended my finger, pushed the button and the doorbell rang. An explosion of barking rang out as Hunter (the gregarious, approval-seeking, black-coated dog) and Luke (the golden-coated confident dog) made their presence know to me. It startled me a bit as I wasn't expecting the noise. Melissa approached the door and we shared a smile through the glass panels of the entrance. Before opening the door and unleashing the hounds, she asked "Are you OK with dogs?" This was how my visit to Liana's home began and before leaving I would feel many different emotions and all in less than an hour.

Having come a few minutes early, I had caught Melissa without her Mom there to watch the children (Liana is 4 and Taresa is 3 going on 20). So while we waited for the cavalry, Melissa introduced me to the kids. As we stood in the kitchen, I motioned to Liana to come closer. I had a "secret" to share with her that I thought would help put her at ease. I bent over and whispered "my wife had cancer too." From that point on we had the most wonderful conversation about my wife's experience with cancer and the treatments. Liana wanted to know if my wife also had a port like her. I said, "Yes she did." Chemotherapy can be stressful on a patient's veins, so a port is implanted in a patient's chest to provide a consistent injection site for treatments.

Melissa's mom came to the rescue and after a discussion of Disney princesses and the movie of the day "Ratatoulle", Melissa and I sat down to discuss the important stuff. After viewing Liana's Caringbridge web site ( to get an overview, I asked Melissa to share so that we can make the best of this opportunity to help Liana and she related a mother's worst nightmare.

On day four of Liana's initial stay in the hospital, Melissa, who was constantly by her daughter's bedside heard a loud scream, wailing and crying in the room next door. Her worst nightmare was being played out by an unfortunate family in an adjacent room. A mother, no different than herself, had just lost her child to cancer. Liana looked up at her mother and asked, "Why are they crying Momma?" What could she say?

I broke down crying with Melissa in their family room as a flood of my own memories of my wife's struggle with cancer mixed with the thoughts of that mother crying and Melissa holding back her own emotions to stay strong for her daughter.

Melissa has turned this story and all the other little stories into a new passion. She cares deeply about doing her part to help prevent cancer and limit the potential for secondary cancers. Through her Relay For Life team (Team LIFE - Live It Fully Everyday)and her support for the Reach For The Stars Clinic, Melissa has begun a new journey into defeating cancer for her child and the many thousands that will follow. Melissa has had to take unpaid leave during this time of treatment for Liana.


Hunter & Luke