Soon enough, I got lost in the memories…
I remembered just how small Dexter was. I remembered that his skin was purple and almost translucent. I remembered watching him through the plastic cage of the humidity crib and stealing little touches on his tiny feet, because I just had to reach out and touch him.
The photos took me through his NICU days, when he seemed to take one step forward and two steps back… I followed his photo journey through his first cuddles and first baths, his first feeds and his first toys.
Being a premmie baby, attached to tubes and wires and breathing machines, the photos of Dexter are sometimes scary, sometimes confronting, sometimes sad.
I followed his photo journey home and remembered the exhaustion of that final hospital week, the excitement of the first home-coming and the incredible panic at the thought of no medical staff being on hand to help.
I wondered at Dexter’s parents… how calm they seemed and how ready they were to face an unknown future. Every time Dexter did anything ‘unusual’, glances were cast towards his parents, because we all now saw them as the medical experts and assumed they’d instantly know what was going on!
That seems ridiculous as I write it now, but they still carry this expectation!
They have to make the medical decisions… they have to judge the problem and provide the solution for Dexter, a boy who has yet to find his words.
I got goosebumps and held my breath.
It was a photo of Dexter in the bath.
Dexter loves the water, so there are lots of photos of him in the bath.
So, why was this photo so powerful?
I could see the cancer.
Back then, when the photo was taken, it was just a photo of Dexter in the bath.
Now, with hindsight and Dexter’s childhood cancer experience under my belt,
I can easily see Dexter’s hepatoblastoma; his liver cancer.
The rash the paediatrician saw is immediately obvious.
And, the enlarged liver… its impossible not to see.
In fact, I can no longer see Dexter, I can only see the cancer.
There is no way I would have noticed, let alone diagnosed the cancer, without having lived through the last year as Dexter’s aunt.
And really, when you have a one year old baby… you’re hardly thinking of cancer! Especially with a little boy who had already been dealt such hard blows in his first year of life! There’s no way any one of us would have been able to diagnose the cancer.Only hindsight and additional knowledge makes it possible now.
Interestingly enough, a little girl tripped over two times in one day at school.
One teacher thought she was tripping on her shoes. Another teacher thought she might have an ear infection and her sense of balance might be off.
Me? I jumped straight to leukemia!
I stared at that photo for a while.
It brought back the horror of the initial concerns being raised and the shock and paralysis of the final diagnosis. It brought back the chemotherapy experience and every awful things that did to Dexter. It bought back the worry and sadness, the exhaustion and mind-numbing self-protection that shielded me through Dexter’s cancer journey. (And I was only a by-stander!)
I hate this photo… and yet, it’s incredibly powerful and a photo we need to have.
Dexter has an extended and hard abdomen... complications with his earlier bowel problems and over-eating, we thought.
Dexter was tired... his cerebral palsy and vision impairment would cause him to tire easily, they said.
Can you see the cancer?
Can you see the rash?
Can you see the computer-mouse-sized tumour?
This post is also in honour of Daffodil Day.
Last Daffodil Day, I was in hospital, getting chemo.
This year, I'm feeling much stronger and much happier.
Thank goodness for good research!
Thank goodness for pediatricians, who do their job thoroughly!