The Beginning

I decided to start a blog to talk about my daughter. Her name is Sophia Bijou Valdez. She is now 3 and a half years old. On October 23rd, 2012, she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). We are currently on week 3 of Sophs first round of treatment, so having started this blog a bit late, let me catch you up on how this whole mess started.

Sophie, up until now, was one of the most rambunctious and playful kids I have ever met. She loved going to the park, coloring, going for walks.. All of that stuff. She never was much of a fan of movies or TV aside from ‘her shows’ which consisted of PBS morning kids programming… a daily ritual. She was never a sick kid, and even when she did have a cold or any illness, she never let it keep her down. Still running, jumping on the bed, still playing and going 100 miles per hour.

On the weekend of October 20th 2012, Sophie started complaining of pain in her jaw.. She explained it to us as her face hurting. We thought she might have a headache or possibly be coming down with an ear infection.. Although neither of those things had ever happened to her.

Of course, your kids always get sick on the weekends, or after DR’s normal hours, so we decided to wait it out until Monday and make her an appointment if it persisted. It did. Saturday she developed a fever and was still in pain. We suppressed the symptoms with the usual Tylenol or ibuprofen dosage.. It helped for the time being, but by Sunday she was in real and terrible pain. She had stopped eating (she loved eating) because of her face pain, which by then we understood was in her jaw. So we decided a trip to the ER was in order. She had never been.

We arrived at the ER about 9 or 10 Sunday night. One of the first things they decided to do was draw labs. Blood. The nurses were nice and helpful, but terrible at drawing blood from a toddler. She was poked upwards of 5 times and had one blown vein before they got a good draw. This was traumatic for her as she had never had anything like this happen to her. But she liked seeing the blood.

The nurse would come back about midnight to tell me that they couldn’t find anything wrong with her. But her labs were of some concern and she wanted to send us home and follow up with our pediatrician in the morning.. This was a red flag. I asked what was concerning about the labs, and she said it could be a number of things.. One being leukemia, but not to worry about that yet. So the next day, 9am sharp, the pediatrician called us and said come in so she could take a look.. Another red flag. The dr said that leukemia was not a concern to her, she said it was most likely an abscess in sophs jaw that was causing the pain and infection that caused the fever, so she wanted to admit us back to the hospital for a cat scan and other testing.. So we went. Red flag number 3.

By this time we were pretty startled but confident in the dr’s opinion of the matter so we went for the tests. She was admitted to our local hospital at about 5pm. And tests were run. Cat scan, labs, vitals.. Then we waited. They drew blood multiple times saying they wanted to double and triple check their findings.. And then we were left alone for a long time.

We became increasingly worried as the time passed. By about midnight the nurse came in to tell us our pediatrician was coming in to talk with us. No scheduled kids dr comes in at midnight to ‘talk’ to a family.. So the anxiety ensued.. My wife became incredibly worried when she overheard the nurse at the station mention the word oncology on the phone.

You see, my wife lost her mother to breast cancer about 5 months ago.. So all of these blood counts and tests were eerily familiar.. But our little girl can’t possibly have cancer… Right? No, no way.. Something funky, but NOT cancer..

Finally the dr arrived. She came in the room and closed the door. She sat down and started to explain…

She apologized for not sounding more sincere about our concern in her office. She continued by giving us the news… Or rather dropping a bomb on us.. “I believe your daughter has leukemia.” She said. “The C-scan came back negative. Nothing wrong in her face or jaw.” She went on to tell us that she has no idea why Sophie’s jaw hurt, but it did lead them to finding the cancer in my little girl, so if not for that, then who knows. She told us they could not officially diagnose her in our hospital so she was going to rush us to Denver in the morning at 9am to children’s hospital Colorado for further testing.

As you can imagine, or if you are or have been in a moment like this, tears came in a flood. We could not believe it. How in the fuck did our little girl go from headache to cancer in 2 days.. No, no way. Wrong. Not possible. But it was…

9am the ambulance was ready. My wife rode in the back and I followed in our car. We live about 2 hours away from Denver in pueblo CO.. And that was the worst 2 hours of driving alone in my life.. Thoughts raced, tears, all of the worry and wonder surrounding the situation.

The dr’s at CHC wasted no time in getting us in, roomed and met. Within a very short amount of time they had Sophie in surgery for a bone marrow biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.. And they did. She was looked at and poked and stuck and all kinds of terrible shit. They have her a spinal tap or lumbar puncture to check if the cancer had moved to her spine and brain. Fortunately it had not.. But they have her a form of chemo anyway as a preventative measure.. All in all we were at the hospital about a week and a half, two weeks.. It was all so fast that we really didn’t have time to soak in what was happening. By the time we left she had two surgeries, one to instal a central line to sophs chest.. A medical port that she will use to receive treatments and some blood draws, meds and other such stuff. She had, I think, a total of 5 rounds of chemo and numerous blood draws and other tests.. It really was a whirlwind.

To date (week 3) Sophie has had one chemo treatment a week, and as far as we know, that will continue for a while.. But thanksgiving is week four, and the end of our first part of treatment, aptly titled ‘induction’. Sophie is on a terrible variety of medications to help and combat the effects of chemo. The worst of which, being dexamethazone.. Or steroids.. It has some awful side effects and I am so happy for her to be off of them come thanksgiving. But, the full treatment schedule will last about 2 or 2.5 years.. So this is going to be a long, terrible road we have to travel. Fortunately we have (or so we recently found out) a huge and amazing support system for our journey.. My little girl is being so tough and brave and willing to take this on, and that is good because she has to. She and we have no choice but to keep fighting this beast.. ‘Kill the germs’ as she puts it.

Ill write more about what we have gone through and keep you up to date on what we encounter in the future, but this about brings us up to speed.. There is so much more I want to and have neglected to say, but that will be another post.. Until then, my best wishes to anyone who has ever gone through, is going through, or will have to go through this, and good night.

-M

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