This month’s Cancer Cutie is more gorgeous than cute. 🙂 Bethany is a talented 16 year old who was recently diagnosed with Hodgin Lymphoma. We feel lucky to share her story here! Her adoring mom Jonette shares the start of their journey with cancer below…
On January 23rd, 16-year-old Bethany went to a routine Dr.’s appointment. Two hours later, after blood work and an x-ray, we were sitting in Kneaders having dinner when the phone rang. It was 7 p.m. Not good news. Hodgkin Lymphoma – a large cancerous mass behind Bethany’s sternum. I looked at her – a typical teenager – large blue eyes, long eyelashes she is always complimented on, thick hair she has been growing out for over 3 years, delicate fingers that are perfect for playing her harp and creating the art she loves. Bethany, who is sensitive to other’s suffering, who just started a job as a private aide to an autistic boy, who always strives for excellence in school and in every endeavor.
The next day we were up at Primary Children’s Hospital in the oncology ward talking about Hodgkin Lymphoma, Stage II B. Tears and sleepless nights followed, and an overwhelming grief over the abrupt change of “life as Bethany (and each of us) knew it” and the fear of the unknown road ahead. It was too sudden to process. One day you’re on one side of the door; the next day, you’re on the other. And when CANCER happens, it happens to the whole family.
Bethany’s family includes her mother, a single-mom completing her last class in communications disorders and a speech teacher in the Alpine School District, her older sister Laurel (20) who is home from college and awaiting her March 18th MTC date, with a call to Puebla Mexico, her younger brother (13) who loves soccer and hockey, her grandparents who live with her, and her dad and extended family in Seattle.
A blur of appointments, consultations, tests and procedures followed the initial consultation. Friday, January 23, Bethanyreturned to PCH for four surgical procedures: the placement of a port, a lymph node removal for a biopsy, a bone marrow aspiration and bone marrow biopsy in each hip. Her sister Laurel stayed by Bethany’s and my side for the 14-hour hospital stay. It was traumatic – the environment, seeing her sister pre- and post-op, trying to absorb the reality of this all. Recovery followed for a week at home.
And now today, we walked through the familiar lobby and up to the 4th floor. Oncology. Cancer. The words still seem unreal. Washed and disinfected, we were admitted into the inpatient ward. I sit here watching as the first chemotherapy drug is being administered – Vincristine. Today, her regimen is 6 powerful toxins, toxic enough that the nurse is draped in blue plastic with purple gloves. Bethany looks so healthy – a pink tint on her cheeks, long eyelashes and hair, a coordinating outfit — she looks like she’s going off to a day at High School.
Only this isn’t High School. This is a battlefield. For Bethany, who returned to High School for only one day, the oh so common angst of others students – whether they have a date for the upcoming dance or whether they were having a bad-hair day — seemed trivial. No longer just a high school student, Bethany is beginning an education of another form. Life behind that door.
Bethany will do four cycles of chemotherapy, possibly more. Radiation may follow. We don’t know the long-range plan yet. For all of us, this is just the beginning. We are on the other side of the door. But that other side is not all fear and darkness and pain. There is light — the light of other cancer patients and their families, the light of family and friends who willingly go through that door with you, the light of compassionate medical personnel, and a host of other supporters. What is unknown to you, until you have to walk through that door, is that on the other side is a community. A community bound by a common thread – cancer. Hope, spirit, bravery, and knowledge reside there. And now Bethany has become one of the brave, or as her dear friend, Trish Howard, (who is fighting her own Hodgkin battle) says, you are one of the SURVIVORS. For every day you battle this disease, you are a survivor.