This has been a week even worse than that following Harrison’s diagnosis with leukemia. I’ve been too emotionally bankrupt to even think about the events of the week, but I did want to give the latest so that you might continue to pray in an informed manner for our “little man.”
On Monday, the day following Christmas, Harrison was having a great day, one of his best. He went to Target with Ginger for a quick trip, then came home and went in the back yard with Lachlan, who was burning the paper and boxes from Christmas. Harrison had a great idea–make s’mores–so he called Ginger and asked her to bring the stuff to make them. It was wonderful. We easily forgot he has cancer.
In the early afternoon all three kids were in the basement playing a new game for the Wii that Harrison got from his grandparents for Christmas. Suddenly, Harrison and Blakely came up the steps with Harrison complaining of seeing spots and a “spinning fan.” We laid him on the couch and Ginger called the oncologist. While she was on the phone Harrison felt like he was going to throw up, so I took him to the bathroom. I came out to get things together to go the hospital and when I returned he was unresponsive. I began asking him questions and trying to get him to talk. After a few moments he tried to answer my questions, but was slurring his words. I told Ginger he’d had a stroke. My heart nearly stopped.
The oncologist said to bring him to UNC, but once on the road Harrison’s head was jerked to the left and he wouldn’t even try to answer questions. He was completely unresponsive.
We stopped at the nearest ER, and I carried him inside. Once inside he began having seizures. They gave him some medicine and took him back for a CT.
When the doctor returned he asked us to join him in the family room. I knew this would not be good news.
He told us Harrison had had a stroke, there was a clot in a major vein, and there were five spots on bleeding deep in the brain. I asked what that meant, and he simply replied, “It’s not good. We’re sending him to UNC and they can tell you more.” We thought it was over.
Fast forwarding, Harrison is still here on Saturday. At some time I’ll be able to write about the details of this week, but in a nutshell, there are two blood clots in his brain, and some serious bleeding. This is a result of one of the chemo meds administered in the first week of his treatment. Thickening of the blood and the potential of clots is a known side effect of peg asparaginas. This drug is given only twice during the protocol Harrison is on: once on day 4 and once again several months later. The drug screws up the clotting factors in the blood. About 15% of cancer patients on this protocol have clots like Harrison. But the asparagenas takes remission rates from 80% to 98%; worth the risk, they say.
So today, Harrison is on heparin, a blood thinner, to prevent more clotting. Of course, there is also the risk of even more bleeding. The doctors have had different opinions on how to treat this case, but have settle on this route.
Tomorrow, Harrison will have an MRI to see if there is any additional bleeding caused by the heavy doses of heparin. If the bleeding is significantly greater the neurosurgeons will perhaps need to intervene. Of course, we are praying this will NOT be the case.
Harrison is also on two different anti-seizure medications, as he has had a large number of “simple partial seizures.” These are due to the damage to the brain from the bleeding. There is no way to know when or even if they will ever stop. Fortunately, there are drugs to deal with them.
There also remains some eyesight problems from the bleeding, but these have improved during the week and are actually fairly insignificant, compared to other problems he has. For example, his eyesight in his left eye has gone from 20/20 to about 20/50. Even if that is permanent, it’s nothing compared to leukemia, or stroke.
We never thought we’d have a worse day than the day our son was diagnosed with cancer. We were proven wrong. But we believe he is the best care available, from the wonderful medical professionals at UNC Children’s Hospital to the family and friends here and around the world who have prayed for him, prayed with him, and encouraged him in so many ways.
This week it has been easy to forget that Harrison has leukemia, as there has been an even more immediate threat to his life. But I am convinced his oncologists have not lost sight of the need to get the underlying problem–the cancer–into remission as quickly as possible.
There are two very important prayer requests we’d make:
One, please pray that the MRI tomorrow shows no significant additional bleeding that would require invasive procedures. The doctors do not want this, neither do we, of course.
Two, please pray that the leukemia has not entered his spinal column or brain, as the treatments meant to protect those parts of the body have been impossible due to the damage to the brain.
We thank God for His people, who have been a blessing to our family during this time in tangible, emotional, and spiritual ways. We also think him for his common grace, wherein researchers, doctors, and patients who have gone before us have, even unwittingly, been a part of preparing treatment options for my little boy.
Most days I remark aloud to Ginger, or to the Lord, “I can’t do this.” I am pressed down and crushed and can’t seem to see a way out of this. But I remain convinced that God is good, and kind, and gracious, and loving, and that he is at work on behalf of my son. I have many times in these three weeks played the role of Moses in Exodus 32, where he interceded for Israel: “Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’’ And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.” (Exodus 32:12-14 ESV)
I have prayed that God would heal Harrison for His own glory and that the nations may not be able to say, “God brought him here only to kill him and consume him from the face of the earth.” We want the nations to say, “God has done great things for him.” That’s really all I know to pray.