Coasting through life as a parent attending PTA meetings, football games, and baseball games, I could never have imaged that my world would be turned upside down in a matter of twenty-four hours. Up until that point, my beautiful, athletic son had never been ill or even been to the doctor for any reason other than a routine exam. But while on the field stretching for a baseball game, he felt a pop in his groin area. An ultrasound told us that Tre had a groin strain. We thought we were headed home until doctors sent us to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta because his blood pressure was high.
Upon entering the hospital at almost midnight, we were taken to a room on the 6th floor. Question after question entered my mind. After having another ultrasound that night we were given the worst news any parent could imagine: Tre had a mass. From there our world continued to deteriorate as Tre’s groin strain turned into Stage 4 Rhabdomyosarcoma of the prostate gland. The tumor was LARGE and the cancer was everywhere. It had started in the prostate gland but tests revealed it was in his spine, his left hip, his bone marrow, lymph nodes, lungs and wrapped around both his kidneys and bladder. As a pediatric nurse for seventeen years, I knew we were in trouble.
I have never been a person to lose hope, and I will never lose hope as it pertains to my children. But this was something I had never experienced. I watched helplessly as my son battled blood pressure readings that were in the 190’s. I watched helplessly as my outgoing son went into a shell – worried if he was going to die. I watched helplessly as my son was wheeled back to surgery. My son came back to me in pain, emotionally broken and scared. My life was shattered, my son’s life was shattered and our family was shattered. We were hurting, confuse, and broken. Every time Tre took a breath I was right there. We did not know how any of us were going to survive this.
And then I was invited to A Tribute to our Quiet Heroes. Needless to say, I was very conflicted over whether to attend the event at all. Attending the event meant I would actually have to admit that I am part of a club that I never asked to be in and never wanted to join. It would mean I am the mother of a child with cancer.
Against my better judgment I attended the event. I cried, I laughed, I felt sorry for myself and for my beautiful son. Then I felt encouraged. There before me was a room full of ladies who were smiling, laughing, and living life despite the fact that their child is sick, in remission, or has passed. I can barely put one foot in front of the other to walk, but here they are living and breathing. This event, although difficult, was another step to help me deal with the horrible hand we’ve been dealt.
Here we are three months after the diagnosis and we are living. We are smiling. Tre is going to school with two catheters still in him. We are grateful. We are blessed. We are hopeful.
So when I am asked what hope looks like to me, I can smile through the tears and say: hope looks like a struggle at first but then looks like battles won. Hope allows you to cry, laugh, and feel sorry for yourself. But then hope is what gives you strength and courage. Hope heals you and that is where my family is right now. We are healing, dealing, and hopeful.
Written by Tamia Perkins, mother to childhood cancer warrior, Tre.
For more information about Quiet Heroes, please visit QuietHeroes.org