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Keeping Up with the Mazzolas

May 25, 2017

It happened on our fourth wedding anniversary. Right after my husband graduated from medical school. We took our three-year-old in for his well-child checkup, and his little brother tagged along. His little brother had been acting lethargic for a couple of weeks, but everyone attributed it to 18-month sleep regression and iron-deficiency anemia (typical picky toddler). We had taken him in the previous week to check his hemoglobin, and this time he was just supposed to get a finger prick to make sure his levels weren’t any lower. It was, so we were admitted to the children’s hospital for an anemia workup. Even though it wasn’t iron-deficiency anemia, something was causing his hemoglobin to drop. The blood smear came back fine, as did all the other tests. Nothing was adding up, but we were assured that cancer was unlikely because his white count and platelets were normal. The hematologist was thinking it was just a hemolytic anemia caused by a mystery virus, but she wasn’t completely sure, so just to be safe, she ordered an ultrasound. Nothing could have prepared her– or us– for what the ultrasound revealed.

There is a mass in my one-year-old’s belly, and judging by its location, size, and shape, it is likely one of three things– neuroblastoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, or lymphoma.

Cancer. It’s cancer. My son has cancer.

I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to feel. I feel so many different things right now. I’m scared. I’m scared because we don’t know where it’s coming from or how far it’s spread, and we won’t have the answers to either of those questions until next week, so we’re just waiting. I’m frustrated because it’s a holiday weekend, and while other people are enjoying a long weekend with their loved ones, we are sitting here trying to think of things to do to pass the time until we can get admitted to the hospital on Monday to begin the process of learning about the tumor and developing a treatment plan. I’m angry because I just lost a child a few months ago. I’m angry because I don’t know why so many awful things keep happening to my family. I’m angry because I didn’t see this coming. I didn’t see this coming.

What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to feel? How did we not know? What do I tell his brother? Why are there so many f***ing questions?

How did I not know? This thing has been growing since Reese was a baby. It’s been silent, but it’s been inside him the entire time he’s been alive. How could we not have known? Why weren’t there any signs? Ever since my sweet miracle flood VBAC baby was born, he has been sick, but we just didn’t know. No one knew. The doctors didn’t know. No one suspected a thing. He has been a dream of a baby– sleeping through the night since eight weeks, eating anything you put in front of him, crawling everywhere, talking to everyone, doing everything, always smiling. He’s been the most perfect child with the most charming personality. How can this be happening to him?

Reese has cancer.

We don’t know what it is, but based on the blood tests and CT scan, the doctors are saying it’s most likely neuroblastoma. Judging by the size of the tumor and its location, it’s likely stage 4. This does not mean it’s not treatable. I’m not going to look at any more statistics, and I’m not going to google anymore about it. The only statistics that matter are Reese’s. It’s up to him. I wish it were up to me, and I wish it was me. I wish with everything I have in me that it was me. But it’s not. The tumor is in my son, and my son is the only one that can beat it. All I can do now is be strong for my baby. I don’t know how, but I do know that I have the most amazing support system– family, friends, doctors, and even people I’ve never met. The outpouring of love and support that we’ve gotten over the past few days has been absolutely humbling and amazing. I appreciate every single note, card, text, visit, email, comment, gesture, and phone call I’ve received; and it’s going to take me awhile to respond to everyone, but please know that I feel every prayer, and I’m so thankful for all of you.

This weekend was spent relaxing with family, and we topped it off with a day trip to the beach. Tomorrow, we head to the hospital, so Reese can get some blood to prep for the biopsy which will take place on Tuesday. They will also do a bone marrow aspiration to see if the cancer has spread there. And finally, they will be placing a port in his chest where he will be receiving chemo once we begin treatment. We should have the results of the biopsy toward the end of the week. Please, pray for our sweet boy. Pray with everything you have. We’re going to need it.