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A Mother’s Worst Nightmare

2013 February 6

Our worlds can turn upside down in the blink of an eye. Imagine your 22-year-old son feeling under the weather for a few weeks and unable to shake his malaise. You insist he see a doctor, one test leads to another and, within days, he’s diagnosed with a fast-moving strain of leukemia. He must start chemotherapy treatments right away, as in that day, or the leukemia will be fatal. He’ll be hospitalized for one month and then will require a bone marrow transplant to insure that the cancerous cells are eradicated.

This is what happened last week to FOF Barbara (not her real name), the divorced mother of five. Her newly ill son, her second youngest, is the golden boy. He never caused Barbara a day of grief, whereas his siblings each contributed a measure of aggravation to her life, at one time or another. The oldest were most affected by her divorce, which happened 16 years ago.

“Barbara is super woman,” said the girlfriend of one of her other sons. “She’s basically raised all the kids on her own. She treats each one like he or she’s an only child. On top of that, she’s a full-time social worker. Just when she was going to be able to relax, boom, this happens. She’s devastated.”

“Devastated” says it best. Nothing, not one single thing, can impact a mother’s life like the extreme illness of a child. “You’re only as happy as your most unhappy child,” the saying goes. Barbara has taken a leave of absence from her job so she can focus on her son and his treatment. No woman in her right mind would be able to focus on anything but her child during such a crisis. Fortunately, Barbara has the support of a loving family, especially her sister.

Nevertheless, Barbara found the time to respond to an email from the mother and dad of the other son’s girlfriend. It is one of the most thoughtful, touching notes I have ever read and I wanted to share it with my FOFriends.

“Dear M and J,

“Thank you so much for your kind words of support. I passed them along to (L, her son) as well.

“As you can imagine, this has become my worst nightmare. All that was important a week ago has become secondary. My total focus is to be able to find the best care for my son. My heart is broken but I have tried to put up a good front for all of my children, who I know share my sorrow equally.

“I hope to be able to have some positive information to pass on and welcome hearing about any success stories we can find. L has his moments of doubt, as are expected, and those are the worst. Even with our training [as social workers], it is difficult to be consoling when you lose hope yourself so I need to remind myself to think positive.

“As for our children I am ecstatic they have found each other and are making a life for themselves. I just wish they didn’t have to have these worries. I love S, as we all do, and she has provided so much strength and joy to all of our lives. I hope that we will be able to celebrate their happiness together in the near future.’

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There is nothing left to say, except that my thoughts and prayers go out to Barbara and her son.

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  • N Villegas says:

    Best wishes and sincere prayers to this family for a speedy recovery and positive outlook for cherishing future moments of love together.

  • Jennell THornton says:

    A lady at my church just this past year went through the same ordeal with her college son. He called her with the same issues and she told him to see the doctor. Same story, he came home went straight into hospital started chemo and later had the bone marrow transplant.
    My heart aches for this family.
    I will continue to keep them in my prayers!
    Sincerely,
    Jennell

  • Ann says:

    I am praying for Barbara, her son, and her family–praying for healing, obviously, and for courage, hope and wisdom. Please convey my best wishes to them.

  • Penn O'Gara says:

    My heart goes out to this lady, having been in a similar situation. My 15 year old was knocked off his bicycle; I had a phone call from the police needing to get me to the hospital immediately & found him in a coma. He remained unconscious for nearly 3 weeks, & had half his skull removed to allow for brain swelling. My 7 year old twins even said their goodbyes.
    That time is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but it made our family stronger in the end.

  • Mary says:

    My prayers are with Barbara and her son, and the other posters who are undergoing a similar situation. May God send his healing to them and their families. It can happen to anyone of us at any time. We need to pray and care for one another.

  • Pauline says:

    I am so sorry that Barbara and her son have to endure this and I will keep both of them in my prayers. I have a 23 year old son and can’t imagine what Barbara is going through right now. She will need to rely on the support of her family & friends and accept the kindness of strangers to fight this battle with her boy.

  • Amy Gill says:

    Prayers of support and healing to everyone in this sad situation. I doubt it really matters which child was “golden” at a time like this! We love our children unconditionally and want them all to have long, healthy and happy lives. I lost my 22-year-son in a tragic accident a little over a year ago – his injuries were so severe that nothing could be done, he died 3o minutes later before any of us even had a chance to see him or say good-bye. There is still hope for recovery here, so I hope everyone involved will focus on that.

  • Naomi says:

    I can’t imagine what Barbara is going through but I wish her family all the best and hope her son pulls through.

  • Tamra says:

    Prayers and thoughts of comfort & strength to Barbara and her family. It seems if you live long enough most of us will go through some kind of “dark night of the soul” and can relate to the anxiety and need for hope. So many walk among us needing our comfort & support. I found angels all around me when I lost my husband & son, some I hardly knew we’re my strongest support. I’m praying for good news for your family, Barbara. <3 to you…

  • Mary Ann says:

    I offer Barbara and her son and family my prayers for comfort, peace, and a full recovery. No one, except those who have gone through this, can understand the depth of pain that such an event causes.

  • Ann R says:

    My prayers and blessings go out to Barbara and her family AND all FOF families dealing with a child’s illness. My son is fighting different foe, addiction, however, Barbara’s letter expressed my feelings exactly. Look around you…there is probably someone you know who is dealing with a similar situation. Your best support is your sincere prayers and an open ear! Thanks for sharing such a personal story.

  • Margee says:

    Sending prayers and best wishes out to Barbara, her son and family, and also to the previous posters who suffered great illness and loss. May they all have the strength to walk through cope with their difficult times.

  • cl says:

    I lost my daughter at age 21 due to something similar. I will certainly be praying for Barbara and her son.

  • Carol Rogero says:

    Heartfelt prayers for strength for Barbara, her son, and their family.

  • Polly Bourke says:

    I pray that they all make it through this devastating time

  • maxine says:

    My friends daughter is now 13 and is in remission from leukemia. Keep your faith and always keep a positive outlook for your son. My prayers are with you.

  • MarDo says:

    I humbly join all the readers in offering my prayers for Barbara, her son and her family. All things are possible when we trust in God.

  • Odette says:

    Please tell Barbara not to lose hope. I was diagnosed with acute myelocytic leukemia (also fast-moving), right before Christmas 2001. I was given a 15% chance of survival, even though I was only 35 at the time. I wasn’t lucky enough to have a perfect match for a bone marrow transplant, so I underwent six months of the most grueling chemotherapy I never imagined. And I was also told I’d never have children, since such high doses of chemo tends to render you infertile.

    Flash forward 12 years – I’m obviously still here! And so is ,y beautiful, almost 8 year old son, who was born against all odds with no health issues and is at this moment skiing!

    There is always hope, you just have to take everything one day at a time so it’s not so overwhelming. And what worked for me was trying to find the humor (however remote), in everyday situations. I shaved my head when the chemo made patches of hair fall out, some looked kind of like a mangy dog. I thought that was funny (I also have a wicked sense of humor).

    Hope, hope and more hope and many blessings to Barbara and her son.

  • Randi says:

    Prayers for a complete & speedy recovery for your son, & peace for your heart. I am the mother of a child with a major chronic condition & I feel your pain.

  • Anita says:

    Sending Barbara and her family healing thoughts and best wishes. It’s great to see so many wonderful responses here – especially the tales of recovery and triumph! Here’s praying for one more addition to that list!

  • Deb says:

    I too am lifting Barbara and her son up in prayer. My husband and grandson are both walking miracles. Praying for a speedy and miraculous healing for this young man too.

  • Jill says:

    I have faced this same nightmare but unfortunately, did not have a happy ending. There are many blessings in this life and learning to find them and live with them is what it’s about.

  • Lory Pasqua says:

    When my 25 year old daughter was 5 years old she too was diagnosed with leukemia (ALL). She is now a beautiful healthy vibrant woman with the world at her fingertips. In those dark days, 20 years ago, I never left her side and to this day we have a very unique strong bond. Eight months ago my 28 year old daughter was diagnosed with a chronic medical condition that has once again required me to stop everything and just be with her until she is better. I am slowly breaking away so that she can regain her independence. As moms this is what we do. Be with your son, I know there is nowhere else you would rather be right now. I wish you and him all the best.

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