September 13th started like any other Thursday. I got the kids on the bus to school and I went to work. About 15 minutes after I got into work, my phone rang. It was Dr. Schrader from Lakeside Family Physicians. She said that my instincts were right, and BJ was VERY anemic. His hemoglobin was 5.8. It's supposed to be between 12 and 16. She told me I needed to take him in to the Emergency Department for testing. Trying to subdue my growing panic, I went down the hall to find my boss, and tell him I needed to leave. Instead, I found a friend and she said she would go tell him. I left and called BJ's school to have him pulled out of class and have him in the office when I arrived. BJ asked a lot of questions, and I just told him he was anemic, and we needed to find out why. He was nervous and so was I. When I took him to the doctor the previous afternoon, I figured we would find out that he was anemic, but that they would suggest adding an iron supplement to his diet or something. I never thought that we'd be going to the ED.
On the way down to Charlotte, we had to stop at every light. We even commented on it. Then when we were close to I-85, I heard a noise that sounded like we had ran over a plastic bag....about a half mile later, I realized that my tire had gone flat. I pulled the car over, unbelieving this set of circumstances. I have never had a flat tire. In fact, about a month ago, I had commented that I would like to find my spare, and the jack in the car, so that if I ever needed to, I'd know how to change my tire. I never made time for that.... Now I wished I had. I pulled out my AAA card, and called for roadside service. A short while later, a pick up truck pulled in behind me. I was very nervous about that, but it ended up being a very nice man who worked for Habitat for Humanity. He found the spare, and put it on, but after lowering the car down, realized that the spare was flat. He took it back off, and took my spare to his warehouse, pumped it up, brought it back and put it on. He wouldn't take the money I offered. I thanked him, and we headed on to the ED.
We were in the room at Levine Children's hospital, and Dr. Weekes came in to talk to us. They had already put an IV in BJ's arm, and drew blood for labs. I told him the background story....trouble with the exercise part of football practice, not getting better...but getting worse, thinking anemia, being told that his hemoglobin was 5.8 and coming there. A while later, he brought in a sonogram machine. He said he wanted to see how BJ's heart was beating. He said it looked fine, and then put the wand down on his upper left quadrant...and said...Well, that's not what I wanted to see. His spleen is enlarged. He looked at me in concern, and I said...well what causes that??! He said well there's several things...Leukemia....that's all I remember him saying. I couldn't hold back the tears forming in my eyes. I tried to hide that from BJ, and did pretty well, because he was watching something on TV. Dr. Weekes just looked at me.
A while later, another doctor walked into the room, and I noticed his name badge was from the Pediatric Hematology and Oncology department. He wanted to speak with me outside the room. My heart sank and pounded, and I knew this was bad. I told BJ that I would be right back. We walked through the ED, and into a conference room. The doctor sat down across from me, and said "I am 99% sure that BJ has leukemia."
99% sure my 11 year old, healthy son has Leukemia..... The words still ring in my ears. What do you mean he has leukemia? He's always been healthy...how can this happen? We don't know what causes it. We're going to admit him into a room upstairs and immediately give him a blood transfusion to get his levels back up. I'm still reeling from "Leukemia"... How?
I snapped back and wanted to get back to BJ. The doctor said he wanted to examine him when we got back, so I waited in the hallway. I'm fighting back the meltdown that is waiting for me, knowing that I have to have to be strong for BJ. He'll know I've been crying, and it will upset him more. He can't stand it when I cry. I dried it up as much as I could and went into his room. He asked me what was wrong. I didn't tell him what I had just been told. I mean, he didn't say he was 100% sure...there was still that 1% chance that my boy didn't have cancer. Cancer. What a horrible, dreaded, ugly word. I won't let myself think about this that way. It's Leukemia...Leukemia...not cancer.