Cancer. I went over and over it in my mind when I felt that familiar tug on my heart.
Dear Lord you cannot be serious. You’re kidding right?!? I watched my dad die from cancer and now I’m going to adopt a child that could be dying too?
Yes. And not only yes, but urgently.
Our son had been diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma and had already had several rounds of chemo and his left eye removed. His scans were noted as clear in China after these treatments, but this type of cancer is known for high recurrence within the same year. He needed to be home quickly to properly monitor this risk. We had adopted from China before, but never in an expedite situation where every week, every delay meant potentially life or death. We pushed hard and were able to book our tickets in less than half the time of a regular adoption timeline.
Then an email came that changed everything.
His foster home had mentioned they believed he might have an infection. This was getting progressively worse and they took him to the hospital for scans and we received a video of our precious son playing and being full of life, but sporting an alarmingly big growth from his socket where his eye was previously removed. Those scans confirmed that his cancer had indeed returned and little could be done. It was a terrifyingly anxious time. Were we still going to proceed knowing this was probably a reoccurance and an aggressive one? Yes. There was no question that Easton was my son, from the moment I saw his face, before we even knew we would be boarding a plane to China in a matter of months to bring him home.
The morning we met our son he was full of life and spirit, as he always seems to be no matter what is going on. He had a patch over his eye socket where the tumor was fast growing. In silly 2 year old fashion, he ripped it off and exposed to us a bulging, bleeding tumor. I often wondered the night before what I would do when I first saw it – what would my human reaction be? Would I be scared? Even horrified? I felt silly because I felt none of these.
I looked at him and just loved him. And that was it.
It was a whirlwind to get him home. I had contacted several medical teams back home now that we could send them video and pictures for their evaluations. We expedited through China as well due to his condition. My thoughts were going a thousand miles an hour. I kind of felt like we were on automatic, not even able to take in everything that was happening. Every flight was a battle with profuse tumor bleeding through more gauze than we could pack and begging officials in broken English to let us board with him so we could get him to medical care.
By the time we reached the states, we had a plan to head to our local children’s hospital within 24 hours to start care. Inside those first couple of weeks, phone calls were made around the world to establish a specialized plan for Easton due to the extent of his cancer, biopises and scans were done and a port was placed. People from all over the world were praying.
On New Year’s Eve, we drove to the hospital to start the first cycle of chemo, less than 3 weeks home. Easton was very used to medical environments, but to be thrown in a completely new situation with new people, language, sights, smells and experiences was hard.
Easton would receive several different types of chemo over many days and then we would get discharged around 2 weeks later. He would be exhausted and still very sick, but we all loved at least having him home so he could start bonding with the entire family. His brothers and sisters loved finally getting to spend time with him.
Unfortunately the cumulative chemo had several negative effects, one being completely wiping out his blood counts and we would be admitted within the week again for fevers or infections to stay another week or longer. This was the cycle for 3 months. It was the hardest on Easton first and foremost, but the toll it took on our entire family was substantial.
Our other kiddos would wonder if Easton was coming back home and cry. We had to have several hard talks with them, but reminded them that God is in control and they are helping with their prayers. Their maturity and care for their brother through everything was amazing. We had to lean on our family, church, teachers, neighbors and friends more than ever.
Over the many weeks of chemo, his tumor was getting smaller and smaller! With the third chemo round, though, Easton was not bouncing back. A little infection grew enormous and landed us in the clinic, where Easton almost died in the office. Thank goodness that God has other plans. A hard decision was made to stop chemo. We then started a five week course of radiation. Several weeks after radiation we waited for the next scan in hopes that it would be completely clear. At the end of June, we received word although the cancer had shrunk tremendously, he was still not cancer free.
He continues to battle today with more strength and bravery that I can even relay in this post.
It is the *highest honor* to be called mama everyday by Easton. These past ten months have stretched our faith in ways unimaginable and showed us true miracles more times than we can count. We are not superheroes or extraordinary people because our adoption journey reads this way. We wake up everyday needing grace and guidance just like any other parent. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, let alone next year.
I don’t know if his next scans will be clear or if we will continue this battle. I do know that Easton will never walk alone though anything and his life is worth every battle we step up to face. He has a home, he is a son, brother and friend. He is a survivor. He is an inspiration. He is a miracle.
There are children waiting right now with cancer or a history of a cancer diagnosis. If your family is considering adopting a child with cancer or a history of cancer, please reach out to your local children’s hospital oncology team and speak with them about what their plan of care may be. Cancer is individualized with treatments, effects and outcomes and there is much to consider. Gather your resources, team and support. Listen to the facts, but also to your heart. I truly believe God will never lead you on a journey He will not equip you for.
– guest post by Brandi