Finding out your child has been diagnosed with cancer is devastating. Below mother, Teryl Worster, shares with us about the journey her family has been through since her daughter Savannah was diagnosed with a very rare form of AML leukemia.
“It was a beautiful spring morning, dew covering the grass, with just a bit of chill in the air, common for early April in the North Georgia mountains. It was April 2, 2011 and nothing seemed any different about this day as I began my Saturday morning in the usual way. I was planning on going to work.
I remember I felt like dressing “smart” this Saturday. I liked to keep everyone on their toes, and when I showed up in a suit, the staff recognized I also had a more serious business side. Being a spa owner and a personal trainer, they had seen me in many different modes. I had recently taken over as Spa Director. I left for what should have been an uneventful day of greeting guests and saying goodbye to our overly pampered clients.
I had not seen my 18 year old daughter Savannah for several days, but I had sent her to the doctor on Friday for some blood tests. She was always on the go and in her first year of college, so it was not uncommon that days would go by without seeing her. She had been getting sick quite a bit; this was very unusual for her, but I wrote it off as “normal” for a young college freshman who was running 24/7. No matter how Savannah felt, she just kept going, so I never thought it could be anything more than fatigue, and at worse maybe some anemia.
I did my best to calm her and told her to come meet me at the spa and I would drive her. My head was spinning bu I felt it was just confirmation of my thoughts that she may be anemic. Savannah had been bruising quite a but and was having massive migraines and a variety of other weird symptoms, though she never ran a fever, which kept my emergency bells from going off.
Savannah arrived at the spa, and she and I quickly took off together to the emergency room in Dahlonega to meet the family doctor. He met us there with direction in hand to go straight to Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital in Atlanta.
We were delivered quite a blow withing 30 minutes of our arrival. My beautiful, intelligent and very athletic daughter was diagnosed with APML, a very rare form of AML leukemia. She was in a very high risk category. We were immediately admitted so she could get a transfusion. I was in a state of disbelief and shock – a mother’s worst nightmare – but Savannah and I just looked at each other and said, “Well, at least now we know what is wrong. Let’s do this!” At that moment I was determined to not allow this terrible disease to take another child, and that passion to extinguish this foe was ignited in me.
Meanwhile I had to tell Savannah’s sisters, Frankie (22), Maddie (11) and her dad, a busy country music artist in Nashville. My husband, Erich, hurried home from a trip to Florida, and my family went into action, my younger sister Lara at the helm. Family and friends quickly mobilized to surround and support us. I was amazed as the goodness of human beings was confirmed around me instantly.
Within 24 hours of Savannah’s diagnosis, and after being transferred to Egleston Children’s Hospital, we were finally meeting Savannah’s lead hematologist. The nurses mentioned the doctor was very handsome, so Savannah was making light of her situation and flinging her long blonde hair saying, “I should flaunt it while I’ve got it.” I was amazed at her ability to stay above the fear she was undoubtedly feeling.
Things went from bad to worse as Savannah began to have a seizure right before our eyes. The medical team was swift to react as the doctor took control. She was rushed to ICU. Soon thereafter we were told she had had stroke and the next several days were critical. We were in ICU for several weeks as every day we had new challenges to face.
It was in the hours following this indescribable event that I first because aware of CURE, as we were already receiving support in the hospital and materials to help us to keep our world in motion. I began a journal that day for my sister to post on our Caringbridge site, as Savannah had touched so many lives, we were being inundated with calls of concern and support. I began the journal saying “the path to miracles is paved by the love of family and friends,” and that has proven to be true.
Savannah was dubbed the “Murphy’s Law” child as she had to overcome many obstacles which presented themselves along the road to her recovery. She has to fight cancer while learning how to walk and talk again. She reacted to the very medicine which was meant to save her and we almost lost her a second time.
Then in her final inpatient round of chemo, she was overcome by bacterial and fungal infections, pneumonia and lost vision in her right eye due to a bleed, again on the precipice of life and death. We spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s in the hospital. CURE was always there to provide warm meals, support and companionship to me and all the other families of these precious children fighting for what so many of us take for granted, LIFE. The staff at the hospital was also amazing; we felt loved and we felt hope, the two spirits that make the holidays special for anyone. You would be surprised by all the smiles you will find on the cancer floor.
Savannah’s incredible light was determine not to be diminished. She was finally discharged the second week of January 2012, the staff cheering for Savannah as she walked out with her head held high and her dreams intact.
Savannah is expected to make a full recovery and has another year remaining on her chemotherapy protocol. Today she is living life to the fullest, she has recently gone into the recording studio with her father in Nashville and recorded her first song, “Day Drinking” written by her father.
The CURE team was one of the first to hear her recording. She is traveling with her boyfriend Dave and taking the time to “find her path in life” after surviving what would take so many others, childhood cancer. This experience has taught her a great deal. She has learned to appreciate life, never taking it for granted, and hopes to be a part of the CURE family forever.”