Our family is still coming down from last week’s high when we received the tremendous news that Megan’s scans showed no discernible signs of cancerous activity. She had a CT scan of her chest and a full body PET scan that showed the proton radiation had done its job on the tumor that had shown up in her chest. Since that tumor had started to work its way around her aorta, we were obviously very concerned. Obviously we were also very anxious about her full body PET scan, because of all the scans she receives, the PET seems to be the real moment of truth. A CT or MRI may show a growth, but you really don’t know if its cancerous until the results of that PET scan come in. Although her PET scan showed a couple of “hot” areas, her doctors said that those two areas did not match up to anything showing up on her CT, which means those spots could be a variety of things. If Megan didn’t have her history with cancer, a doctor wouldn’t think twice about them, but given her history, they will be watching both spots very closely. One spot was on the left side of her neck and the other was in her lower back. Just to put that in perspective, on the PET scan she had about three months ago, it showed hot spots on her left foot and in her groin area, and this time both of those spots were clear. Overall, we could not have hoped for any better news…and best of all, Megan doesn’t even have to go back for a check-up for seven more weeks!!! For Megan and our family, two months of peace seems like an eternity…and we intend to make the most of her respite from this awful disease.
As I have watched Megan travel her journey, and have also connected with families of brave childhood cancer warrior across the country, I have become more and more convinced of the role that attitude and belief plays in this journey. One thing that has never wavered in Megan is her fierce belief that she would beat cancer. I will never forget her very first day of chemotherapy treatment, which was on December 30, 2014 when Megan called Deb and I to her bedside and lectured us on just how this journey was going to be traveled. As a shy 13 year old how had just learned she was in for the fight of her life, she stated firmly to us in words I will never forget,
“Please don’t say ‘I’m sorry’, because when you say that it makes me feel like I won’t get better, and I am going to get better.”
Those words turned out to be quite prophetic, because to this day, Megan will tell you that she always believed she was going to win. Sure, there were some very dark days when she really struggled both mentally and physically with what cancer was throwing at her. However, in Megan’s mind, the agony she was going through was viewed as a necessary evil that she had to endure to reach her ultimate goal. Somehow, after going through indescribable mental and physical pain that would bring many adults to their knees, she would soon flash that infectious smile, which I now know was her way of telling us that she had this under control and everything would be okay. From day one of her journey until today, her belief in herself has never failed, and I firmly believe that is how she has overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to still be with us today.
It is heartbreaking how many Facebook comments and emails I receive from parents who have just learned that their child has cancer. As a parent, one of the first things you do when you learn such devastating news is to immediately conduct your own Google search to learn as much as you can. Apparently, when such a search is conducted, parents eventually find this blog site and reach out with questions and in search of support. It is heartbreaking, but I am so happy that “Megan’s Journey” has turned into a useful resource for parents who are about to embark on this challenging journey. I always remind these parents that they are now members of an exclusive club that no one wants to join, but as members, they can discover a unique support group that can help them through the toughest times. I will forever be thankful for Kasey Harvey’s family, as her dad served that exact purpose for me. Kasey was diagnosed with the same cancer as Megan about three months prior to Megan’s initial diagnosis, so when we connected, he was such a valuable resource because he could let me know what was happening to my daughter and what I could expect next. It was so comforting to find someone who really understood what Megan and our family were going through. To this day, we stay in touch as both of our daughters are examples of what a positive attitude can do in the face of daunting odds.
Many of these parents who contact me simply want to know the key to getting through it. Without failure, I always tell them that they MUST maintain a constant and fervent belief that their child will win. Our kids know when we are being genuine and when we are faking it. If they see us lose faith, they will soon follow. I know it’s an old and tired saying, but in this battle, attitude really is everything. Before you can win, you first have to believe that winning is not only possible, but inevitable. I give all of the credit to Megan for the fact that we have always believed in her, because had she not laid down the gauntlet by lecturing us on day one of her journey, I’m not sure we would have been able to keep our faith in the ultimate victory. But because of her, we have always believed, and although we know that Megan is far from out of the woods, we know that cancer is on the run and the final victory will eventually arrive. It’s only a matter of time.
It was so amazing having Kenzi home for her spring break for the past week. Many people forget how hard cancer is on the siblings involved. I know I have alluded to this many times in this blog, but if you know a family fighting childhood cancer, please do not ever forget the mental toll it takes on the siblings. They are in this fight also, because they carry the burden of their sister/brother’s illness every single day. Given all that our family has been through during Megan’s four year fight, Kenzi has had multiple opportunities to use Megan’s illness as an excuse and just throw in the towel. However, that’s just not in her nature, and we could not be more proud of all she has overcome to get to where she is today. We just received word last week that Kenzi once again made the Dean’s List at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for her first semester grades. This semester, she is also knocking it out of the park as she is currently carrying a perfect 4.0! She is doing all of this while working two different jobs and worrying about the health of her sister from three hours away. We were sad that our spring breaks did not align this year so we couldn’t vacation together as a family. However, Kenzi did head to her Aunt Amy’s house in Kansas City for three days for a quick and fun getaway. She and Aunt Amy always have a blast, and this time was no exception. I was jealous as they enjoyed some authentic KC barbecue, and Kenzi treated her Aunt to some of her homemade donuts. Although we missed having her at home, we were happy that she could get away for a few days before she headed back to school today.
Megan continues to live life to fullest after receiving her latest reprieve from cancer. She is still working on her mental and physical health by working out, trying to reconnect with friends, and of course…hanging out with her beloved pets. She refused to every let cancer have the upper hand.
“Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it.”
Charles R. Swindoll