At Christmas, we noticed Noah was a little pale, but he’d just gotten over a cold and an ear infection, so it seemed normal enough. Just a few days after we came home from our Christmas holiday, I received a strange Facebook message from my brother-in-law’s sweet sister, saying she wished she were closer and could do more. Please give Lisa and Dave and Noah an extra hug from me, she wrote. How scary for their family.
I was afraid and confused. When I called my sister, she was in the back of an ambulance with her baby, two-year-old Noah, driving four hours from home, to Primary Children’s Medical Center.
“Noah has leukemia,” Lisa told me—so calmly.
I was immediately in tears, heartbroken and mystified.
Thankfully, the over-production of white blood cells leaves behind salt deposits which cause pain in the joints. So Noah’s first symptom was alarming–he wouldn’t stand up on Friday morning, Lisa took him right to the doctor. A blood test came back with a remarkably high white blood count, which the doctor suggested could be a post-viral issue, but he referred them to Dr. Hancock at the hospital to be sure. Lisa knew Dr. Hancock from high school, and she knew he was an oncologist.
So by the time she talked to me, most of her tears for the day had been shed. She’d cried while waiting for the lab results and cried again when Dr. Hancock confirmed that her baby boy had leukemia. When I spoke to her just after she and Noah had arrived at Primary Children’s, she comforted me. Try not to worry too much, she said. I think everything is going to be all right.
Although reeling from the news herself, Lisa was calm and level headed, and continued to be throughout their weekend stay at the hospital, and every time I’ve talked to her since. In just a matter of days, Lisa and Dave were flooded with a tidal wave of information about treatment protocols, risk factors, and care standards, and somehow stayed afloat. Now they wear purple latex gloves when they change Noah’s diapers to protect against prolonged exposure to the chemicals that are coursing through his body. It’s incredible to think how abruptly they’ve come to inhabit this new world. And although it’s unwelcome, they have acclimated with such grace.
If you cross their little Noah, he will still call you a dummy (we blame his older siblings for that), and he likes the iPad just as much as he always has, but now—suddenly—he’s a cancer patient, and beneath the peek-a-boo laughs and silly eyes he makes, chemicals are running through his little veins, destroying white blood cells to make him well again.
Noah has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) and his prognosis is excellent. It’s been treated with great success in children for many years, and Lisa and Dave and the doctors are all very hopeful. He’s responded well to his first treatments, except that he hates taking his oral medicine. And Lisa and Dave are moving forward so gracefully, taking each hospital visit and treatment and new piece of information in stride. They are feeling loved and supported by so many people who care about them, and we keep praying like crazy that they’ll all be blessed as they experience this hard, hard thing.