As I was organizing tonight, I found an envelope on the counter that I was given at Victoria General Hospital a few weeks ago when I took Natalie down for her check-up. I looked in the envelope and it was a medical summary of Natalie's treatment at B.C. Children's Hospital. For some of you who are reading this and are un-aware, she was born with stage 4s Neuroblastoma of the adrenal gland. It is a developmental cancer that occurs when the effected cells don't get stop growing like they should. They continue like the fetus was still developing quickly in utero. By chance, Natalie was over due by a week and the doctor decided to send her mom for an ultrasound just to make sure everything was going okay. Shortly after the test we were called in to be told that they saw something in the pictures and were concerned. It could be nothing and clear up before birth but would follow-up with another ultra-sound after she was born.
She was stubborn and didn't want to come out an meet us so the doctors elected for a c-section and Natalie joined us in the world early in the morning on October 22. 2003. She was huge and happy and such a great baby. I was thrilled, I had been hoping for a daddy's girl and my wish came true. She had a follow-up ultra-sound and the mass was still present, so our doctor decided to re-visit the issue in three months.
Three months go by and it was a fabulous time. Natalie's first Christmas, and I remember her first smile like it was yesterday. She was an easy, quiet baby. She was not fussy. It was perfect. And then we had to go in for the ultrasound, I was positive that all would be well, it was just a blockage in the liver and it would have cleared out. We went out for a nice walk while waiting for the doctor to call with the results. We arrived home to a message from the the doctors office telling us to go there immediately and see him. So we got the bad news, her mass has grown and spread, and we had to leave to Childrens Hospital in Vancouver that afternoon. My heart sank. How could my perfect, beautiful little girl be sick. Why did this happen to me. What did I do? What did she do? It wasn't fair. We arrived at home and luckily Natalie's grandma pulled in right behind us to see how the test went. I asked her to come to Vancouver with us, I had no idea where to go. Not knowing my way around at all, that added extra stress to the whole thing. She was more than willing to come, and off we went for the first ferry we could catch. I know is sure cried a lot during that ferry ride, looking out over the water wondering what would we find out once at the hospital
We arrived at the Emergency at Children's. We spent the night there, waiting for a bed up in the ward. 3B. The oncology ward. We were at the hospital for the better of two weeks. During that time, Natalie had x-rays, bone scan, CT scan, and an exploratory surgery to biopsy the mass and to insert a central venous line. The surgery was on February 14th, 2004. The surgery went well, but the surgeon wouldn't touch the adrenal gland for fear that it would pop and it would spread the cancer cells through-out her body. The diagnosis came in shortly after the surgery and the news was positive. The Stage 4s neuroblastoma has a high rate of cure in infants, so I felt great afterward. She started under going chemotherapy shortly after the diagnosis and the process of curing her was started.
We were going to Vancouver every week for two months or so. She would have chemo one week, then have to go back the week after for blood transfusions. Her blood cell counts would go so low. It was noticeable, her energy levels would drop and we could tell it was time to go. That usually happened on Thursdays and we were always leaving that night to go back across. We were so lucky to have family to stay with over in the city. Natalie's great grandmother lived in Richmond. We would stay with her most nights that we could. It was easy to get to the hospital from there. We had so much support from friends and family during our ordeal. I feel especially grateful that we had Y.A.N.A. to help out. It is a charity organization in the Comox Valley that gives financial support to children's families who must leave town for medical reasons.
After two rounds of chemo and numerous blood transfusions Natalie was ready to have the adrenal gland removed. The treatments had shrunken the gland small enough that it could safely be removed. The surgery went well and the doctors were happy with the way it went. She needed two more rounds of chemo to make sure the liver was cured and one more surgery to to take the central line out. It was about six months all together. Her prognosis was good. The oncologists were positive, and that she would have a full recovery and no long term effects from the chemo.
Since then she has had numerous follow up CT scans, and ultrasounds as well as blood test and yearly visits to Victoria General to see the oncologist on staff there. The have been no worry-some moments. She is perfect, just like I knew she was when she came into this world. She is beautiful, smart, talented and growing like a bad weed. My daughter is a cancer survivor and I am so proud of it. I love you Natalie.
(I am glad I didn't wreck my computer with the tears that have been streaming down as I wrote this)