Over the weekend Harrison faced yet another serious threat to his life: the flu.
Childhood cancer patients are severely immunocompromised and are therefore susceptible to infection. These infections are bad for healthy people. They are often fatal for these kids.
Harrison woke up Friday morning feeling bad. He had a fever. A fever is an automatic trip to the hospital for him because of how serious any infection would be. Once at UNC the docs ran the flu test, started him on antibiotics, and checked his blood counts.
His ANC was 300 (down from 3000 two weeks before). Regardless of how the flu test came back, an ANC below 500 with a fever is an automatic hospitalization.
An hour or so later the doctor came in with the results: positive for flu.
Harrison lost it. A little perplexed, Ginger asked, “What’s the matter.”
His reply, “I’m scared.” Why? “Because I’m going to die.”
He had heard us and his doctors warn many, many times about the flu. It is VERY dangerous. But to him, contracting the flu was a death sentence. He was convinced this diagnosis meant he would die. It was a sad, sad moment.
The doctor allayed his fears, reminding him that although it is dangerous (many kids do die from the flu), we caught it early and could treat it. He was satisfied with that explanation.
That night, though, the situation went from bad to worse. First, the cancer floor was full; no room in the inn. So he had to go to a different floor with new nurses who, though professionals in every way, weren’t his nurses. Then, his fever continued to rise, despite all efforts to control it. He had to sleep on a device that circulates ice water in an effort to bring down his temp. He was, again, fighting for his life.
After a long and frightening night his fever eventually began to decrease. He had survived. Yet another crisis averted.
Long Term Maintenance was supposed to be the easy time. And it has been easier in many respects. But this fall Harrison has already fought two of the most dangerous threats to children with cancer: a fungal infection and the flu. By the grace of God he has been spared.
And today Harrison is back at school. He’s forgotten his pain. He’s choosing to live without fear. Rather than being enslaved to despair and anxiety, he’s determined to live. Not just to survive but to thrive. To be a normal kid. To shoot hoops in the driveway. To throw the baseball. To look cancer (and cancer treatment) in the face and say, “Not today.”