Diagnosis: Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
Lance was a typical, healthy teenager until he wasn’t! Swollen glands led to a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
“It was absurd, surreal, Lance had never been ill or injured before in his life. This was our funny, youngest child. Suddenly our world had been turned upside down.”
It was late on a Friday when they got the call.
“All I could think was, weren’t we supposed to be at home sharing a pizza ready for a week off for Thanksgiving? Yet here we were in the parking lot of the Texas Medical Center, headed for the ER. Then I had to break the news to him, and not at all in the way I would have wanted to, with his support system in place and words carefully chosen, but while navigating Houston rush hour traffic on the first Friday of Thanksgiving vacation.”
On the other hand, because the cancer was in his tonsil, the fact that something was wrong was obvious. His throat was constantly sore, food was hard to swallow, his breathing was obstructed. Had it been any other location, a teenage boy may never have shared with his mother that there was an unusual growth on his body.
“We were lucky, and we knew it,” explained Lance’s mom.
Lance spent 79 days inpatient during chemo including all the major Holidays. He never had an entire week away from the hospital. He had hoped to keep attending school, but he was forced to switch to virtual learning and although some of his friends kept in touch, he struggled with a sense of isolation. He knew activities were going on that he couldn’t be a part of, and it hurt.
“Still, when I tried to arrange meet-ups with his friends he declined, afraid he would feel out of place. He wanted so badly to be able to play baseball that spring, and he asked each doctor who saw him, just in case one of them would give a different answer,” said his mom.
The family learned a lot – one thing being that it was impossible to plan more than a couple of days ahead.
“We have five kids at home, so planning is essential to our lives, and the futility of doing it during treatment was a major obstacle.”
“We told ourselves, ‘Thank God we are only 45 minutes from one of the top cancer treatment centers in the country, and thank God we have insurance.’ We did what so many other cancer parents are forced to do; we maxed out our credit cards paying for medical deductibles, gas and parking and pizza delivery. We balanced which bills we could get away with not paying, or postponing.”
The family was already struggling with an income gap from my husband changing jobs due to the pandemic.
“The world seemed to crash down around me despite all my efforts to maintain some normalcy. We had no choice but to ask for help from friends and family. The memory of the realization that there was no way we could do it alone still brings a lump to my throat. We had already missed one of our mortgage payments and I was getting non-stop automated phone calls from companies reminding me that my accounts were delinquent. Friends and family were constantly asking what they could do to help, but asking for money is hard, especially when what you need is a lot of money and when you have no idea whether you will ever be able to repay the kindness.”
Lance’s parents were preparing to have a discussion with their parents about a loan when they found out about Pinky Swear Foundation.
“You can imagine how much we were dreading that conversation. With incredible kindness Pinky Swear responded with a generous donation that helped to keep our home and prevented us from incurring additional debt. We felt such immense relief, it was like coming up for air after being knocked down by a wave in the ocean. We will never be able to completely repay the kindness that has been shown to our family by Pinky Swear, but from the bottoms of our hearts, we thank you and vow to pay it forward forever.”
One year out of treatment the family is beginning to get back on its feet. They are moving forward one step at a time.
“I pray that there will never be another day that my child has to sit watching chemicals being pumped into his body, feeling like he has no control over his life, and has to view the world from behind a window rather than being part of it and with our whole lives having to revolve around the ramifications of our child’s cancer diagnosis.”
And, yes, Lance is playing baseball again!