September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month. At PCFLV, we are committed to spreading the GOLD all year long. However, in September, we truly make it our mission. 30 Days, 30 Stories celebrates the children we know and love and the brave battles they fight and have fought, with their families by their sides. In celebrating these beautiful children and their stories, we hope to inspire you to join us in our mission to SPREAD THE GOLD in September and all year long!
This is my son, Dominic. He is 7 years-old. He is the sweetest boy. Since he could talk, he would tell me "I love you mamma" at least 20 times a day. He gives the best "squeezie hugs" and he's not the first to let go. I have always said there must be sugar in his veins because he is so sweet.
He was diagnosed with a brain tumor on 9/16/15. The day I heard those words, I understood the feeling of the blood draining out of your body. I drove the 5 minute ride home from my office and I couldn't catch my breath. My heart felt like it was going to explode. My husband drove him back to St Luke's Bethlehem and I stayed at home making phone calls and trying to grasp what I just heard. I remember being on my front porch and wanting to hurl my furniture through my front window. I was sobbing and my older son, Lou, looked at me and said he was scared. I said I'm scared too.
When I got to the hospital and saw my sweet boy laying there, still lethargic from his MRI, and so tiny on that huge mattressâ€¦.I made a decision. We ARE going to get through this, we HAVE to. I CANNOT be weeping at his bedside. He's my little boy and I must be his strength.
We were taken to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia that evening. It was a whirlwind. We were comforted and treated so delicately but professionally from the first minute. I will always remember the triage nurse pulling me aside and saying to me, " I know you're scared, but he is in THE BEST place. We deal with this all day, every day and we will take the best care of him." I think I exhaled for the first time that day and it was 1130pm. I can't say enough good things about CHOP and its staff. Each one we encountered was phenomenal in their own way.
He had his tumor removed on 9/21/16 and we were informed it was medullablastoma. Suddenly we are now facing CANCER treatment for our 6 year-old CHILD? WHAT? I would see the kids on those commercials and think how sad, but that doesn't really happen that much. I've never been more wrong. 15,780 children are diagnosed each year in the US alone! WHAT? All childhood cancers combined receive only 4% of the research funding. WHAT? These kids are our future. They are KIDS. I felt so naÃ¯ve. My SON is now the commercial.
Dom's Wolf Pack was formed. We took an amazing trip out to Yellowstone and other beautiful spots in Aug 2015 (one month prior to his diagnosis) and Dom used almost all his spending money buying stuffed wolves. I asked why he was buying all these wolves and he said "I love them and I want one in every size." It is said that "For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack." That is so very true. We drew strength from the pack and he taught the pack about strength.
He had complications following surgery. He couldn't swallow, talk, walk or eat without the aid of a feeding tube. He developed an infection. He would cry because he missed his brother and our dog, but he didn't cry for much else. Each day he would get therapy, and little by little he improved. We were at CHOP for 3 months. He had radiation. After his first 3 weeks of radiation with sedation, we tried without sedation and he aced it. The staff was amazed by him. We were amazed by him. They would play his music selections and I'd laugh when I'd hear Heart, The Highway Men and Blue Oyster Cult blasting out of the Proton Therapy Room. Not your typical selections for a 6 year-old. My husband and I always play our music at homeâ€¦hee hee!
He did whatever he had to do, without crying, without flinching and with a strength I couldn't believe existed in such a tiny little guy. He'd tell the nurses it's time for my neuro check, my eye drops, my BP check and they would laugh. He treated his rehab like it was a job, and it's just something he had to do. He completed 7 months of chemo in July. He has therapy 3 days a week at Good Shepherd and continues to improve! He had another clear MRI on 8/16/16. More great news!!
We've seen a community come together to support Dominic and my family in ways I never imagined. I've experienced so many acts of kindness and generosity to Dominic and my family. He was on every prayer list in town. There were so many people praying for him, I felt like I could feel them in my heart. Our hearts our huge with gratitude and love for our amazing support system.
I'm so very proud of both my boys. Lou would see Dom getting gifts hand over fist and not once did he say, "Where's mine?" He knows how strong his brother has been. He sticks up for him and helps him. Of course they fight, but what I see when Lou thinks no one is looking is what matters most to me.
I think we did the best we could to get through something like this. I tried to smile as much as I could, I tried to make Dom laugh as much as I could, and I snuggled with him as much as I could. I think of the parents that have lost their children and I would hug him one more time. I saved my crying for the ride home on the Schuylkill.
I have a sweatshirt on order and it says "Some people never meet their hero, I gave birth to mine."
He is and always will be my hero, my son, Dominic.
-written by Dominic's mom, Alyssa