You have to know that I don't post a whole lot about my family online. I like to keep my private life a bit more private than most. I don't share my pain, my heart ache, our struggles. I like to stay positive online, to post happy thoughts instead of the downers.
However, there are times when you just need to let it out. You need prayers or help. You have to just release the inner turmoil that is slowly killing you on the inside. Especially when you are a mom.
When you are a mom, you are the example for your kids. You are strong. You are their teacher, their protector. You are the first line of defense for your kiddos when it comes to the cruel world...the shield that allows them to be kids just a bit longer. But that creates a huge burden on you...worries fill your head and your heart.
Most of the time, you can just brush them off. I mean seriously! Why worry about a tree falling on your kid as they walk to school. What are the chances of that actually happening? Slim. So you let that stuff slide in and right back out.
Then there are the things you never saw coming.
In July of this year, our 8 year old daughter Paige was cleaning up the table after dinner and I noticed a spot on her hand. I was a little upset thinking she had been drawing on her hand with a marker. So, I stopped her and said "What is that kid?" She said "Oh! My teacher accidentally bumped me with a pen before we left for Christmas break."
*Inner Monologe* WHAT!?! That makes NO sense. That was 8 months ago, Kid! UGH! Ok. Just breathe.
After asking to see it, my heart began to sink as I realized it wasn't a pen mark at all. It was a misshapen, discolored mole. The same mole that just 9 months earlier was a tiny little pin head and a nice light brown. Alarms started going off in my head as I looked my daughter in the eye and asked "how long has it been this color and shape?" She didn't know and insisted that it was just a pen mark from Christmas time. However, no amount of scrubbing would make this mark go away.
I knew in my heart something was wrong, and the very next day made an appointment with a dermatologist. Two weeks we would have to wait. Two weeks of me checking her hand daily. Two weeks of my mom worries to build. I kept telling myself "Erika, you are over-reacting. This kid has never had a sunburn a day in her life. It's just a mole. No need to worry." But no matter what I tried to say to myself, my gut knew this wasn't good and my brain reeled with worry. It took all of my strength to not show my concerns to my kids, but I truly think they could sense something wasn't right.
The day of the appointment came, and the Doctor came into the room happy as a clam. "It will all be ok now. It's nothing to worry about, " my brain said. We talked as the Doctor looked over our 11 year old first. Nothing exciting on her. Yay! Then Paige....and the Doctor's face went from happy-go-lucky to concern instantly. I knew that look. It was the same look I had been carrying inside me for two weeks. She could see what I saw, but then said "You know. Moles on the hand can grow weird, but lets just take a biopsy today to make sure. I'm sure it's just a normal little mole that's just got it's own unique shape due to it's location." Yes. It's nothing my brain screamed at me as I said "Sounds good." Better to be safe than sorry, and the Doctor is just being cautious. Nothing to worry about.
6 days later...my phone rings. The nurse from the dermatology clinic says "Hello. May I speak with the mother of Paige?" Here we go I thought...it's all fine...it's all fine. Then she said the results....Severely abnormal cells with a high probability of melanoma. I had no breath. No words. All I could say was "ok." to whatever else she was talking about. What was she saying? Oh, they have to do surgery? This is my baby! How did this happen? What? What did she just ask me? Oh...she wants to set up the surgery appointment and call me back..."Ok".
As I hung up the phone and set it down on the table the tears filled my eyes. She is 8 years old! She has NEVER had a sunburn in her life. Never! I couldn't breathe. My head filled with thousands of scenarios. Cancer treatments. Scars....death...NO! No! No! No!
I got up and walked into the office where my husband was finishing up an email for work. I couldn't even look at him. "That was the dermatologists office on the phone...she has severely abnormal cells with a high probability of melanoma." I said as the tears started pouring down my face. He grabbed me and pulled me in for a bear hug as I sobbed. We cried together and my worries were now our worries for our baby girl.
The date for her excision of the site was set, and we carried on with life. I became a bit more withdrawn with friends, family and social media. Letting my business slide a bit more than I should...even debating whether or not I want to even stay in business. My kids mean more to me than anything in the world, and I would gladly sacrifice my dreams and passions for their lives in a heartbeat. But I kept telling myself...it will be ok. This is just a bump in the road. You need to focus on the positives. No one is dead! She is strong! Positive focus. Breathe.
I pushed the worries back hard as we went on our Anniversary trip. We laughed. We joked around. It was fun. But the whole time the mom worry in the back of my head nagged at me, and I wanted to be with my kids. Soaking up all of their snuggles. We both kept saying "The kids would have loved this," or "I wish the kids were here."
Now, a parent's worry for their child's safety is constant. You worry about them falling, breaking bones, getting kidnapped, getting in a car accident...just all around doing something stupid and getting hurt from that decision. The normal worries. Most parents don't worry about Cancer until they have to. And it's not because you don't worry about your child getting a severe illness. No! It's because THAT is so hard to fathom, so painfully hard to imagine you just don't let your brain go there. When it does, you feel helpless. This isn't a boo boo you can kiss and make better. This isn't a "learning opportunity" on how to make a better decision. It is an illness that could have just as easily have hit you or your neighbor. A random, invisible enemy. You could never have protected her from this. You know the percentages, the outcomes of so many with similar diagnoses, but you can't stop the path she is now on. You are now a helpless bystander, waiting and praying your baby is strong enough to fight back for herself.
So here we are. The day of the "surgery". Anxious to know how it all will play out next. Two other moles may need to be removed today as well, and my worry for her builds. This isn't what I ever imagined for her. Not ever and definitely not at 8 years of age. I now have to have faith in her strength, to support her on this journey as best I can. Maybe it will turn out to all be just a fluke. Maybe she will never have this issue ever again. We just don't know. But for right now, my "mom worries" fill my days and nights as we wait for the next step.
Our daughter's surgery went really well. She is such an amazing kiddo and only flinched ONCE when the Doctor used a needle full of anesthetic to numb the area. They gave her a sucker and put on cartoons and she just chilled for the rest. We were all so impressed!
The Doctor had said she hadn't ever seen this type of cancerous mole in someone so young before, but that the percent of this type of mole returning is only 4%. So, fingers crossed for our little girl.
The results came back about 2 weeks after surgery, and they did get everything with this second surgery. No cancerous cells on the edges. YAY! However, we still have to take her in for a check up every 3 months for the next year, as they expressed concern over a couple other moles on her back.
It has been a few months now, and I keep checking her all over. Sounds crazy, but this kiddo is one of the sweetest kids on the planet. She is this mommy's big helper girl. My snuggle bug. I couldn't imagine life without her...EVER! So my mommy worries never end.