This post is #104 in a year-long series ... Through this series of posts I plan to share our family's experiences during our 17-year-old daughter's year-long battle with brain cancer, which began in February of 2008. My desire is to process through the events of that year from the perspective that a decade of time has brought ... for myself, really. But if you'd like to follow along, you're welcome to join me.
After a mostly sleepless night, Brad and I got up the next morning, steeling ourselves for what we might hear from Children's Hospital that day. We put on our brave faces for the girls, and woke them up as usual for school. Hannah woke up feeling good that day, and was excited about going to school, because she was going to be ordering her senior ring. She had already picked it out from a school ring catalog, and knew exactly what she wanted. So, Brad went to work (as principal at Hannah's high school) and I dropped the girls off at school. I was supposed to go to work that day too, but I just couldn't. I called our school secretary and told her that I wouldn't be in, without any further explanation. Of course, by this time, they were used to me missing work with Hannah, so she didn't question it.
At 8:00, I called our oncology nurse at Children's and asked her if the scan results were in yet. Of course, they weren't. I explained to her how what had started as a simple brain scan had turned into a lengthy brain and spine scan and she was surprised to hear that. She assured me that as soon as she received the results, she would call me. I waited around the house for about an hour, trying to find things that needed doing, but I couldn't focus on anything and was too restless to just sit and wait. Finally, I just got in my car and just began driving. I didn't have any destination in mind, I just knew I had to keep moving.
I drove around aimlessly for quite awhile until finally, my cell phone rang. The caller ID showed Children's Hospital, so I parked the car and answered it. The nurse told me that the results were in, and I clearly remember her pausing, then quietly saying, "It's bad." She patiently explained to me (twice) that the scans showed multiple tumors on Hannah's brainstem and up and down her spine. She then said (twice) that we were to report to Children's the next day, prepared to spend the night, and that we were going to begin a new chemotherapy regimen. I hung up, shaken to the core, but without tears at that point. I don't remember the drive to the school, but I do remember walking into the building and praying that Brad would be in his office so I wouldn't have to go wandering around the school looking for him. He wasn't. I found him in an upstairs hallway talking to a teacher, and I didn't approach him or speak ... I just gestured to him to come. I hurried back to his office, with him following behind me. He shut the door, I told him the news ... and then the tears came for both of us.
I'm not sure how much time passed while we processed this news, but we knew that we needed to tell Hannah. She had made me promise when she went to school that morning that we would get word to her as soon as we got the results of the MRI. So Brad stepped out, got her out of class, and brought her to his office. She could immediately tell by the stricken look on our faces that the news wasn't good. We told her what the nurse had said, and then spent some time crying together. About that time, we realized that Bethany would be in the cafeteria eating lunch, so Brad asked the counselor to get her and bring her to his office. So she joined us in his office, and we shared the news with her. And the waves of emotion began yet again. At last, we began to pull ourselves together and decided we would just leave school together, head home, and spend the rest of the day regrouping.
Just as we were about to leave, the school ring salesman walked into Brad's office. The poor man had no idea what he was walking into! As soon as he came in and saw our tear-stained faces, he started excusing himself and backing out. But, you know what? Hannah wanted to order her ring! That's what she had come to school for that day! And that's what she did. As we stood numbly off to the side, she sat down with him, calmly explained the style she wanted, the color stone she wanted, how she wanted her name engraved on the side. After they got all the paperwork filled out, she was ready to go home. So we all got in the car and headed out. But as we were driving past the gym, she said that she had heard that the letterman jackets were in, and she wanted to stop by and get hers before we left. So we stopped outside of the gym, and Brad ran in and got her jacket for her.
I don't remember much about the rest of that day, but I do remember the sense of irony I felt about Hannah ordering her class ring and getting her letterman jacket within minutes of hearing the news that her cancer had returned with a vengeance. At the time, we honestly didn't even know if she'd live long enough to actually receive the class ring she'd just ordered, much less be a part of the Class of 2010, like her jacket said. I do know that that day really shook us. But again, at some point during that terrible day, the four of us sat down together and re-committed Hannah's life into God's hands.
You might notice that it seems like we had to continually stop and make a conscious decision to trust God with Hannah's life. That's because we did! Even though we had made a commitment to trust God with our situation back on February 20th, when Hannah's first tumor was found, that decision had to be revisited time and time again as circumstances changed and faith waned. And every time we did that, we would feel renewed peace and even a deep, indescribable joy as we knew He could be trusted to do what was best for Hannah and for our family.
Hannah's Facebook status from ten years ago today:
"Hannah is shocked, scared, and sad. My cancer is back ... Please pray for me! I'm gonna give God the glory!"
My email ten years ago today:
We received Hannah's MRI results this morning, and we are calling all our friends and family to pray. The results showed that Hannah has developed multiple tumors in her brain and spine since her last MRI two months ago. We will be going to Arkansas Children's Hospital first thing in the morning. We will first meet with the oncologist, and then as we understand it, Hannah will start a new chemotherapy regimen. She will receive two different drugs intravenously, and will spend the night in the hospital tomorrow night. We expect to be released on Saturday. She will receive this treatment once a week for four weeks, and then take two weeks off. I think she will have another scan at that point.
Hannah is feeling pretty good right now...and has not been nauseated at all today. She is showing amazing strength and faith, and we give God the glory for that. He is the source of our strength, comfort, and hope, and we know He has our daughter in His loving hands.
We hope to be able to update from the hospital tomorrow. We know that God is in control, and He is good all the time....
Jill and Brad