By: Vanessa Armstrong/
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month, so I thought I’d share a little bit of my daughter’s story and what it was like dealing with her cancer diagnosis.
My daughter, Keira was diagnosed with a Wilms tumor one month and 8 days before her 5th birthday, to say we were shocked was an understatement. She had a 9 ½ hour surgery to remove the tumor and her left kidney the day after they found the tumor, she began chemo a few days later.
About 9 months after completing chemotherapy, we found out her cancer had returned, she had radiation, more chemo and another big surgery, after a rough 6 months, she completed treatment and has been cancer free since December 2011.
Especially during Keira’s second battle with cancer we always had people ask us, “How do you do it” “How do you get through the day”, etc. You can probably imagine the questions we’d get asked, the answer was, we just do it. The other thing we’d hear most often is, Keira always has a smile on her face, she’s always happy, I think that had a lot to do with the fact that we just made sure she knew we were there, no matter what.
As parents we can’t just sit around and let the world stop because things aren’t going the way we want them to. Even though Keira was sick, we never stopped living life or making memories as a family. Trust me, it wasn’t sunshine and roses, it was rough, and I look back and wonder how we made it through each day. Was it hard, yes, did I hate to watch her go through everything she was going through, of course, but we got through it, there were times we did focus on the bad, and the things that could go wrong, but never in front of the kids. I always tried to tell myself, it could be worse, her type of cancer had a very high cure rate, even after she was diagnosed a second time.
We tried to make sure she could do as many things as she could that other kids her age were doing. She still participated in Girl Scouts, went to school as often as she could, her little brother was her chemo buddy sometimes, and believe it or not, they both loved going to chemo at Mott. It was normal to them and it was fun, they had games and snacks, what’s not to love. We also had to remember that we had another child in the house and we had to make sure he was having fun too!
Almost 5 years later, Keira remembers the fun things that she got to watch tv in her bedroom, the games she played and fun crafts she did at the hospital, all of the goodies that family and friends sent to her. She doesn’t remember being sick, how thin she was, when I had to shave her head because she was losing her hair so fast it was all over the house, how much pain she was in after her surgeries, that I had to give her shots at home, the different kinds of medicines she had to take, those things don’t even enter her mind, because our goal was to have fun and make memories and not dwell on the things we couldn’t change.
If you’re interested in reading more about the specifics of how we found out Keira had cancer, you can read this interview I did a couple years ago for Mott.
Vanessa Armstrong is one of our Parent Liaison for Lenawee Great Start. Before joining Lenawee Great Start, Vanessa worked as a photographer and served in the United States Air Force of 10 years. She is a Florida native who has been living in Tecumseh with her husband Sean and their 3 children, Keira, Cooper and Harper since 2010.