It has now been 593 days since Megan was diagnosed with stage 4 aveolar rhabdomyosarcoma cancer. Megan was initially diagnosed on December 30, 2014. At that time, she had just finished the first semester of her 8th grade year, but very quickly and cruelly, school became the least of her concerns. Thanks to her 8th grade homebound tutor, Mrs. Larson, Megan was able to complete her 8th grade year. During what should have been her freshman year at Coal City High School, Megan was still in the midst of her intense chemotherapy treatments, so with the risk of infection, attendance at school was still not possible. On January 25, 2016, following a long hard battle, Megan’s cancer was officially declared in remission. After that, she set about earning as many credits as possible with plans of starting her sophomore year as a full-time student. Starting in mid-February, 2016, Megan went back to school part-time and earned credits in English I and Health. Thanks to the work she was able to do with her homebound tutor, Miss Erb, Megan was able to earn a full year’s credit in English. Over the summer, Megan attended summer school to earn credit in Drivers Education. She also worked with Mr. Micetich over the summer to earn credit in Algebra I. Megan worked so hard to reach her goal of attending school at the start of her sophomore year, so to see it finally come to fruition was definitely one of those beautiful moments.
School started on Wednesday, so Tuesday night, Megan was full of both anxiety and anticipation. Although she was starting her sophomore year, she had never been a full-time students at the high school, so it was really like being a freshman. Therefore, she had a lot of difficulty getting to sleep on Tuesday night. However, on Wednesday morning, she had no trouble getting out of bed as soon as her alarm went off. This year was a double whammy for me because not only was Megan finally going back to school, but Kenzi was starting her senior year. When I came home to check on them, Kenzie quickly exclaimed, “Hey dad…it’s my last first day.” WOW…I can’t believe how fast the time has flown by!
As we have done every year since we moved into our home on Trotter Drive, we had to get our customary first day of school pictures with the Emerson girls. Madison was starting her freshman year, and even though Makenna graduated last spring, we still made her come over and pose for pictures🙂
Watching Megan head off to her first day as a full-time student at Coal City High School was a very emotional moment. As I watched she and Kenzie pull out of the driveway, there were so many memories that came flooding back. I vividly remembered that Christmas morning in 2014, which was the very first time I saw the tumor on Megan’s left forearm. I remembered taking her to the pediatrician and being breathless when I heard the word “cancer” for the first time. I remembered the look on Megan’s face as we were driving to Central DuPage Hospital for the first time, knowing I was powerless to shield her from what the doctor was going to tell her. I remembered holding her hair back the very first time she threw up from her very first chemo treatment. I remembered watching her struggle to deal with having her head bolted down to the table during proton radiation treatments. I remembered when she was rushed to intensive care after suffering a severe sepsis while in the hospital. All of the memories were so vivid as I watched Megan leave the driveway on her way to school. However, the one memory that still stands out the most is how Megan reacted as soon as she was told her official diagnosis of stage 4 cancer. As soon as Dr. Hayani left the room, Megan told her mother and I,
“Please don’t say I’m sorry. When you say that, it sound like you don’t think I will get better, and I’m going to get better.”
From that moment, Megan changed the game. She had already determined she was not going to be a victim to cancer, and she wanted to make sure we knew that as well. Watching her go back to school was validation of her steely determination, focus and courage. As I told her just before she left, she has proven there is nothing she cannot overcome.
After the first two days of school, Megan was pretty exhausted. By Friday night, she was in bed by about 9:30 p.m., which is unusual for her on a Friday night. However, she bounced back on Saturday as she had made plans to have three of her friends sleep over and go shopping with her for Homecoming dresses. Yes…Megan is going to the Homecoming dance with her friends this year!!!
Saturday night was pretty busy around our house as following the “Meet the Coalers” volleyball night, Kenzie had all of six of her fellow senior volleyball players sleep over. Megan also had her three friends sleep over, so we had a full house, but it was lots of fun. At Kenzie’s request, Megan and Deb whipped up a batch of Oreo cupcakes for the “Meet the Coalers” event.
At about 10:00 a.m., Deb took Megan and her friends, along with Kenzie and Makenna Emerson, to the Orland Park Mall to go Homecoming shopping. Both Megan and Kenzie picked out gorgeous dresses, but you will have to wait three weeks for Homecoming before you can see pictures :) Thinking about Megan attending the Homecoming dance with her friends always brings a smile to my face. Here is a picture of all the girls eating lunch in between shopping.
The pace will continue to pick up this week as Megan will have her stamina tested with a full week of school. Kenzie also opens her volleyball season with two home games during the week and a tournament on Saturday. Here we go!🙂
Another challenge Megan will have to overcome this year is missing school periodically due to her ongoing medical appointments. On Monday, she has an appointment at the Marionjoy Rehabilitation Hospital to get fitted for new casts, which will cause her to miss her first three classes. Thankfully, Miss Erb has agreed to tutor Megan again this year, so she is coming after school on Monday to help Megan get caught up with what she missed. Also, on August 29, Megan has her next round of three month scans, which includes a brain MRI and a CT scan. However, we won’t worry about that until the time comes. Being a cancer survivor is akin to the process of fighting cancer in that you have to learn to take things one day at a time. You can’t worry about tomorrow until tomorrow gets here. Instead, you have stay focused on making the most of today. Over the past 20 months, Megan has become an expert at living in the moment.
Of course, a week as great as this one wouldn’t be complete without a picture of Megan and Ophie :) Until next week…