Christmas day will mark the four year anniversary of when we first discovered the tumor on Megan’s left forearm. I will never forget that moment as the Emerson girls were over for their traditional Christmas morning visit. Megan was trying on a sweatshirt, which is when I saw the strange growth on her forearm. Since it was Christmas morning, we tried not to make a big deal about it, but I was a little concerned. Megan was in the midst of 8th grade volleyball, so I thought maybe she had hurt it bumping a volleyball or something. As I look back on that day, it is obvious that Megan knew that something serious was going on with her body, but as a scared 13 year old, she was too frightened to ask. The next day changed Megan and our family forever, because that’s when Dr. Jercinovic broke the news to us that she was sure our beautiful girl had some form of cancer. Five days later, we found out for sure that Megan had stage 4 Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma and was going to be in for the fight of her life. Hearing that your child has cancer is something I would never wish on any parent, because there is nothing that can prepare you for it. There is also nothing that can prepare you for how your family’s life will change as you experience the roller coaster ride that is cancer.
Over the past four years, the high’s have been exhilarating as the support from Team Megan continues to pour in. In many ways, traveling this journey with Megan has rekindled my belief in humanity, because there are so many good and caring people out there. We have also watched Megan mature from an extremely shy 13 year old into a national spokesperson for childhood cancer who refuses to take no for an answer. But while the high’s have been amazing, the lows are absolutely gut-wrenching. There are no words to explain what it’s like watching your child suffer from the torture that is chemotherapy. Nothing can prepare you for the mental anguish that a teenage girl with cancer has to endure. There is no preparation to watch helplessly as your child is fighting for her life by the minute while in intensive care from an infection caused by a compromised immune system due to chemotherapy. This roller coaster ride can definitely give you motion sickness if you let it…but there is one thing that has always kept us one step ahead during this battle, and that is Megan’s positive attitude.
Over the past four years, Megan has been through 90 weeks of chemotherapy, three surgeries, and over 100 radiation treatments to treat her original diagnosis and two relapses. Through all of that, she has never wavered in her belief that she will one day finally beat cancer once and for all. Recently, Megan learned that she has relapsed once again as she has a tumor in her chest that has wrapped itself around her aorta. This third relapse has meant another proton radiation regiment that started this past Wednesday. Megan took this news harder than she has in the past, because she is getting to the point where she has about had it. Cancer is a persistent opponent and she is starting to wonder if the disease will ever give her a minute’s peace. It’s completely understandable for Megan to have such feelings, and to be honest, I’m surprised she hasn’t had them more often in the past. Although the last two weeks of multiple scans and diagnosis have been tough on her, she got her mind right in time to start her battle anew on Wednesday with her first proton radiation treatment.
Megan had proton radiation treatments on Wednesday through Friday of last week and she will start again the day after Christmas. Although she was unhappy to be back under the radiation machine, she was thankful to get the process started instead of waiting until after the new year as she was originally told. So far, her first three treatments have gone well, and although she has been very tired and her stomach is still giving her fits, overall she is doing as well as could be expected. Unless you have experienced it yourself, none of us could ever understand the daily mental and physical grind that Megan is under. Yet even given her tremendous burden, she is still laughing and singing every time we make the hour long drive to the radiation center. I truly believe that to win this battle, attitude is everything. Even though cancer continues to attack her over and over again, Megan still believes in herself. As long as her mindset stays right where it is, she will defeat this beast once and for all.
The Christmas holiday started early at our house as Kenzi came home on Wednesday night from the University of Wisconsin for her winter break. She finished her last exam at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday night and was home by about 10:30 p.m. She has had an amazing semester as she continues her studies with the goal of becoming a Speech and Language Pathologist. She loves her coursework and could not be happier to be in Madison. Once Kenzi got home and our family was back together, it felt like the holidays could officially start.
On Saturday, we traveled to the farm in Assumption, IL for the Bugg family Christmas celebration. It was so good to see everyone, and we had such a great time. I had the best intentions to take lots of pictures, but as usual, I got sidetracked. However, I did get a few.
As readers of this blog know, our house is filled with three cats and a dog, all of whom have been tremendous therapy animals for not only Megan, but Kenzi as well. Many people forget that although cancer is awful for its victims, it also significantly impacts the siblings as they are forced to watch their sister or brother fight for their lives. During much of the last four years which were filled with long hospital stays and the many doctors appointments, Kenzi also found comfort in the pets who would keep her company when she was still in high school. Although she has had a tremendous transition to college life, there are times where she still misses having a pet. That’s why she decided to ask many of her relatives for money as her Christmas gift so she could purchase her new pet…a hedgehog! :). Today was the big day as we traveled 90 minutes north to the hedgehog breeder Kenzi found when she was conducting her painstakingly thorough research on the topic. Here she is traveling home with her new pet, Quilliam (a.k.a. Quilly).
Christmas is right around the corner, and our family is so excited to celebrate with family and friends. I realize that Christmas is a special holiday for many people, but when you have been through this journey, every holiday holds a little extra special meaning. Merry Christmas to everyone!!!