It was Christmas Day, 2014 when we first discovered the bump on Megan’s left forearm. At the time, little did we know the trials and tribulations that discovery would lead to. The following day we went to see Megan’s pediatrician, Dr. Spomenka Jercinovic, who immediate knew the grave situation that faced our beautiful 13-year-old girl. She didn’t even let us go home before sending us immediately to see Dr. Salvi and Central DuPage Hospital. To this day, I still credit Dr. Jercinovic’s quick and decisive action for saving Megan’s life. After a series of grueling scans including a five hour MRI (which is the cause of Megan’s current claustrophobia issues), the worst was confirmed. Megan was officially diagnosed with Stage 4 Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma cancer. We were obviously devastated to not only hear that news, but to also learn that Megan would be undergoing 54 weeks of intense chemotherapy. Virtually every minute of those few days are etched in my mind forever.
Five years later, as I reflect on those traumatic few days, there is one moment that stands out more than any other…and it is the moment that set the tone for how Megan would lead our family through her five year battle. Deb and I were standing by her bedside as an MRI technician was getting ready to transport her from her hospital room to yet another series of MRI scans. Through tears, Deb and I were holding her hands and I will never forget the words Megan boldly and forcefully told us. She said,
Please don’t say ‘I’m sorry”, because when you say that it makes me think you don’t believe I will get better, and I’m going to get better.
It was at that exact moment when I realized that our painfully shy 13-year-old 8th grader actually had a steely determination and grit that none of us knew existed. It was those positive and hopeful words that set the stage for how Megan would attack her personal battle with this vicious and evil disease. It was also those wise words that allowed our family to move from despair to hope. It was a singular moment in time, but that moment’s importance has made all the difference…because when fighting childhood cancer, the old axiom is definitely true–“ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING”.
Since that time, of course there have been difficult times. Our family has shared tears as we watched Megan’s continual struggle with the mental and physical battle that accompanies fighting childhood cancer. Of course there have been those “Why us?” moments as our entire family has been profoundly impacted by this nasty disease. Of course there have been those moments of doubt as Megan relapsed not once, not twice, but three times. Of course there have been numerous moments of anger as we educated ourselves on how little progress has been made over the past 50 years in treating Megan’s type of cancer…and childhood cancer in general. But no matter how difficult things have been, Megan’s fighting spirit, steely determination, undying grace, and generous heart have continued to fuel us all through the extreme ups and downs of this arduous journey.
It’s times like Christmas where we can all pause, take a breath and truly reflect on the past. Sure…Megan and our family have been dealt a rough hand, but we have also learned that you have to play the hand you’re dealt to the best of your ability. This past week was a welcome reminder that our family’s blessings far outweigh any challenges cancer has tried to throw at us. Megan’s wise words from five years ago have never rung more true…”Please don’t say I’m sorry”…because childhood cancer will never dictate, define nor determine our family’s outlook on life. We are truly blessed.
Merry Christmas to everyone! Here is our week in pictures.
Here are some pictures from our family Christmas morning…complete with our traditional breakfast of homemade cinnamon rolls and egg casserole.
Of course…the pets love Christmas too 🙂
After we finish opening presents, the Emerson girls always stop by for breakfast and a gift exchange. The four “sisters” always have so much fun together.
After Christmas Day, we went to Lisle to watch Madison Emerson play in a holiday basketball tournament, and then our family went with the the Emerson’s for dinner. It was fun to celebrate Megan’s five year anniversary with our awesome neighbors.
After all of the excitement, there is nothing better than a nap with her Boo Boo Kitty.
As another year comes to a close, it’s a chance to reflect on our family’s many blessings. We could never thank our family, friends and everyone on “Team Megan” enough for the love and support you have shown Megan and our family over the past five years. All of you have played an integral role in Megan’s story of triumph over childhood cancer. She continues to defy all of the odds, and of course her incredibly positive attitude and fierce determination have played a major role in her success…but so has the loving support she continues to receive from those friends and supporters near and far. 2020 is going to be the year that Megan is finally able defeat cancer once and for all. Until next week…