As a football player who benches over 300 lbs and blocks guys who weigh at least that much, Riley is usually complaining that something hurts. About a year ago, maybe less, Riley complained of back pain on his left lower rib. The pain radiated around to the side and front at times. We took Riley to the family physician and he x-rayed Riley. I was not surprised when he told me that Riley was literally “full of shit”. He was constipated. You could see it on the x-ray. “Oh brother, I knew it!”
Months passed and occasionally Riley would bring up the fact that his rib still hurt. We both assumed it was constipation….we bought more Miralax, ate more apples, and drank more water.
I think it was January when Riley pointed out to Paul and I that his left rib stuck out further than his right one. Having a daughter with scoliosis and a rare bone disease, which causes bumps everywhere, I figured it was just an asymmetrical rib cage. Riley also started complaining more about his rib hurting around this time.
Sunday March 16th, Riley woke me up in the middle of the night in severe pain on his left side. From his description of symptoms, I wondered if he had kidney stones. The next day we took him back to the family physician. He had a urinalysis and an ultrasound of the bladder. There was no sign of kidney stones or any infection, there was, however, a trace of blood in his urine. The doctor said, “just come back in a week and we will do another urine test”. A day passed, Riley was in pain, I mentioned through text to a friend what was going on. She said that her family had experienced those exact same symptoms with kidney stones and texted me the name and number of her Urologist. I can’t say that I heard a voice telling me to “call him!”, but for whatever reason, I did. I assumed it would take several weeks to get into the specialist. … “We can get you in tomorrow”, they said. (a miracle)
Thursday, March 20th around 9:00 am I sent a text to my sister, Leslee….this is what it said….”I’m tellin ya…. Everything happens for a reason…It’s been one thing after another lately with Riley … He wrecked his car yesterday. Thought I was having a bad day yesterday until I went to class and a lady told me, with a smile on her face, that she has brain tumors and fluid in her lungs. Life is crazy ! I’ve decided a problem is only a problem if you view it as such. Life is good. We are here to learn. It’s all part of the plan and we have to have faith that god is in control and knows what’s best. ;). The good news is…. Riley is planning on going on a mission before school. Keep your fingers crossed”
Around 9:30 am Riley and I went to Matthew Christopher’s office. We explained what was going on and he listened intently. He asked some questions and suggested that perhaps Riley had kidney stones that were undetectable with the ultrasound. He wanted to get some blood work and a CT scan of the kidneys and bladder. At the last minute I thought I should mention to him that Riley’s rib was sticking out on the left, slightly further than on the right. (miracle) He examined Riley and said, “it’s probably a protruding rib”. I agreed. As he was leaving the room, he stated that he would request that the CT scan include Riley’s bottom ribs – just to get a look. “ok – sounds good”! (miracle)
Riley and I headed over to Lone Peak Hospital for a CT scan and some blood work. We were headed home from the hospital when we got a call from the doctor himself. (does that EVER happen? – not to me! Matt Christopher is AWESOME!) “I need you to go back to the hospital for additional blood work”. Ok, we turned around and headed back. As we pulled into the hospital parking lot, Matt called a second time. I don’t remember his exact words, this is where life started to feel like a dream. “I’ve been talking with the radiologist and he feels it is important that Riley gets an entire body bone scan TODAY. “ Like I said, I don’t remember how this short conversation went, but at some point Leukemia and bone cancer were mentioned. “Wait at the hospital, I’m going to see if I can get you scheduled right now”. Riley ran into the lab and gave more blood. I sat in the car and felt my life change. Part of me KNEW it was something bad. The other part of me kept a small amount of hope. Many, many things had been happening in our lives over the past several months. You can ask any of my closest friends and they will tell you, I said it more than once… “I feel like Satan is working harder on us than he ever has, but at the same time, I feel like God is running block! Just when something potentially horrible arises, I feel God at work taking care of the details to change the outcome”. This very morning, before we went to the Dr, I know that God was preparing me for what was coming. I have never experienced a time of such peace, clarity, understanding, and gratitude. Throughout the days that followed, others mentioned that it’s probably this or probably that…. I knew it was cancer. I knew it was part of God’s master plan, and so did Riley. Ask him yourself if you get the opportunity. He has no doubt that all of this is part of his life journey and that everything that led up to it had prepared him for this moment. He knows why it is happening, he knows how he needs to handle it, and he is sure he will beat it. The biggest blessing that has already come from this “nightmare”, is that fact that my sweet son and I are better friends than we ever have been. He has opened up to me and I to him, we laugh, we cry, we hug, we discuss all of the miracles and what we have learned from this experience and how we can use it to touch the lives of others and help them to understand how much God loves each one of us. How he is right by our side and is carrying us when we cannot walk alone. We both know that this life is a time to learn, to grow closer to God and know him, it is a time to serve others, love others and absolutely never judge others because you don’t know what they are going through. It’s funny, we talked about how we expect everyone, everywhere, even driving, to be nice and patient with us because we are dealing with something horrible. It helps us to understand that we should probably try to refrain from screaming profanities at the “idiot driver in front of us. Who knows what they might be going through?
Friday, March 21st, Dr Matt Christopher got us into St. Marks for a full body bone scan. They injected Riley with radioactive dye at 9:00 am, at 3:30 they scanned him. The dye collects onto bones that have something going on with them. (for lack of better understanding) All I know is that Riley’s left bottom rib lit up. Thankfully that was all. (with the exception of one very small spot on his lung – it was less than one mm, so they are just going to watch that spot as we do chemo and hope that it goes away) Because of all of Mallory’s surgeries, we are friends with a few of the Dr’s at Shriners. I gathered up Riley’s scans and results and we dropped them off up there late Friday afternoon.
The Longest Weekend Ever….. Dr Matt Christensen continued to text me and check up on Riley. I’ve never had a Dr be so concerned, caring and willing to help in any way he could. It was very comforting to know that I had someone on my side helping us get into the Dr’s we needed to see for this problem.
Monday, March 24th, I received a phone call from Matt, and also from Dr. Woiczek at Shriners. They BOTH had arranged for us to see Dr Lor Randall. (miracle) They both felt that he was the very best Dr for Riley’s situation and they had both scheduled us an appointment. (how often do you have so many medical professionals looking out for your best interest? ) We will see Dr Randall at Primary’s tomorrow.
Tuesday March 25th, Riley and I walked into the pediatric orthopedic department at Riverton Hospital. The mood was light, the atmosphere was bright and happy, the room full of color, toys and little people everywhere…. What was this great big healthy ‘man’ doing here? It’s always comical the first time a new dr or nurse enters the room. They all have the same question on their face…. “where is the patient?” Riley is not your typical 17 year old kid. He looks to be more like 24. Everyone in the office was so kind. Too kind. Way too kind…. Something was definitely wrong. We met with Dr Randall. He’s awesome. He was very careful to paint the best possible picture. Only saying “if” it’s cancer…. He sent us downstairs for a CT scan of the lungs. He scheduled us for an MRI the following day, and told us to meet him at Primary’s uptown on Thursday for a biopsy of the tumor (that is the size of his fist), and “if “ it’s cancer, he will place a port in Riley’s main artery to begin chemo. My guts will never be the same, my perspective of life will never be the same, my concerns about money, or clothes, or a clean house, ….. will never be the same. My baby boy is going to have a PORT?????? NOOOOOO! My kind hearted son, who’s heart is as big as his size 12 feet, who always looks out for the underdog, who tries to come across as a bad ass, but on the inside is a giant teddy bear, the one who took his Grandma on several “dates” when his Grandpa died of cancer, who was the only one who volunteered to carry a backpack for the girl with crutches, who, without saying a word to anyone, had a tribute to his grandpa engraved on the inside of his football ring….. is getting a direct line to his heart so that it can be pumped full of POISON????? “Hold it together Jackie – be strong for your son. He may be twice your size, but he is only a 17 year old boy”.
Wednesday March 26th a sweet lady at Primary’s called to let us know what time to be at the hospital the following day. “I have your son scheduled for three procedures”. WHAT? “I thought he was scheduled for a biopsy with the possibility of a port “if” it’s cancer. She replied, “Dr Randall has ordered a bone marrow aspirate”. ……… This was the second time I truly could not stop myself from the sobbing and whaling that brought me to my knees and I realized I HAVE NO CONTROL.
Thursday March 27th “Your son has Ewings Sarcoma, we will need to treat him aggressively with chemo therapy for nine months to a year. After three months we will do more scans, hope the tumor has shrunk and hopefully be able to remove the rib and the tumor”. I have described the “WORST DAY OF MY LIFE” in a previous entry. I’d rather not re-live it again right now.
TODAY is Sunday, April 6th. The Calm Before the Storm…. Riley is with his good friend at his cabin to watch conference and shoot guns. He wanted to wait until Monday to begin chemo so that he could have a “break from cancer” before we start his treatment. As his Mom, I want it gone as soon as possible and wanted him to start as soon as possible. The Dr’s assured us a few days would not make a difference. It has been a good weekend, at times, for one or two minutes at a time, life has felt “normal”. Everything is different. I’ve always loved listening to music, as I drove to my sister’s last night, music was annoying, it was chaos. Food has lost it’s luster as well. The things that fill my soul are quality moments with people. With each member of my family. Yesterday Riley and I had a great conversation. We came clean with each other on our “past lives”…. Yikes! Haha. Riley laughed and said, “I can’t believe how much alike we are”. We laughed and compared stories for a good hour. That never would have happened if it weren’t for “cancer”…. Another blessing.