When you become a mother for the first, second, third or what have you time…you never expect the bad. You look at your beautiful baby and nothing in the world matters. From there you begin to imagine their life, who would they grow up to be? Would they be someone you would respect, someone you would even look up to? Would you be able to smile at the thought of your child and say “yep I did a damn great job.” You start to mould them at a young age to be respectful of others and themselves, to teach them consequences, and accountability. You notice they’re changes in attitude, the shift in their personalities that lead you to believe that you are on the right path. You do every, and anything in your power to ensure that they are healthy, and happy, and sometimes, no matter how hard we try, life happeneds.
I met my husband when I was 16; I fell madly in love with him. 12 years later I can proudly say I am more in love with him than I was when I was 16 years young. From an early age I was told that children were not in my future, first I was told I would never get pregnant, and then I was told I would never be able to carry a baby full term. I proved them wrong. Twice.
I gave birth to our beautiful BIG baby boy July 14th, 2005, 4 days after my 23rd birthday. Carter Ronald Pawluk entered this world at 9lbs 10oz. He was a brute, but he was my brute. He was handsome and honestly a perfect baby. He slept through the night, ate well, never fussed or cried and was incredibly adaptable. As he grew up he became more fascinating, I was moulding my own little person. He was sensitive to others, kind, and polite. Yes he had his aggressive moments, but he was a little man in the making and I adore every moment.
Fast forward to 5 months later and I find out I am pregnant again. Immediately I panic, I feel sick, and scared, and I’m hung up on the idea that there is no possible way I will ever love another baby as much as I love my son. My husband even has to call my mother to get me to calm down because I am in completely shock.
September 13th 2006, Brinley Ryann Pawluk entered this world screaming in rage. She was hungry and needed to be fed right away. Because I under general anaesthetic, I was unable to feed her, so daddy popped a bottle into her tiny mouth and they had their first father daughter moment.Through the 5 years of raising Carter and now Brinley, we have had few hospital visits. One for stitches in Carter's face, another for a peanut allergy Brinley had at age 2, but we are a happy family enduring life’s little bumps along the way.
That is up until November 9th 2010. That Tuesday Brinley fell ill, she was complaining of leg pain, I had thought maybe she pulled a muscle in ballet and it would go away in a few days. Her pain was quickly followed by a high fever, which is your body’s way of saying, “hey something is wrong” I take her into the hospital where she is quickly dismissed for having a cold. “Take her home and give her Advil, if she gets worse take her to the children’s hospital,” they tell me. I follow protocol and no surprise she gets worse. Her fevers are up and down (mostly up) and she’s very lethargic. I take her to the children’s hospital where she has blood drawn, and an IV placed in her arm to get her hydrated. They pop her into an x-ray and see some stuff around her hip, but nothing major at this point. An orthopaedic surgeon follows up saying that the chances of septic arthritis are slim, and there are two ways to check. One is to put her under sedation and they draw fluid from around the area, and 2 is to go home for 2 days and, one of two things will happen. Either she will get worse, and will not be able to walk at all, or she will clear up and then it can be ruled out as a virus. I go for option #2 because she has been through so much in the last 24 hours; I’d hate to stress her out more. They tell me if it gets worse, bring her in. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday fly by, she’s no better, no worse. Then Saturday rolls around, Brinley seems worse, her fever is higher, she’s lethargic and unwell. I bring her back to the children’s hospital.
They inform me that they will be keeping her for observation and some blood work and tests. They don’t tell me what they are testing for; they just smile and say that she will be in good hands. We get up to our room on the surgery ward, and tell me that they can’t let her go until her blood smear is back from the lab, and that will take a few days, probably back on Tuesday. They also book for an MRI which, because of the weekend, they can’t squeeze her in until Monday, or the Tuesday anyways. So I go home, back our bags and prepare for a few days away from home. Monday rolls around and they have a spot for Brinley and she will be sedated and need another IV due to the last one clotting. The nurse starts another IV in her arm, she is then put out, and we wait. After Brin is awake they tell me that her blood smear is back, and YAY they are no lymphoblast cells. This is the first time they actually confirm that they were indeed looking for leukemia, and are proud to say that her blood looks great and that leukemia isn’t an issue. THANK GOODNESS. However something strange has showed on her MRI in her hip bones, and her blood counts are low, which is odd because the bone marrow appears to be working over- time to produce a low amount of cells. She will need to have bone marrow removed to see what is going on; this will take place Wednesday, results Friday. During this time, another IV has clotted, been pulled out with the promise of another one. The nurse comes in to check Brinley veins, sighs and leaves the room. She returns at 8pm with numbing cream, and tells me that the PICU (paediatric intensive care unit) nurse will be down shortly to start Brinley’s new IV. She can’t do it because Brin’s arms are completely tapped out and her veins are collapsed. The PICU nurse arrives at 12am and the chaos begins. At first she finds a good vein to access, Brinley is already on edge and trying her best to be a good girl, but she’s terrified. The nurse finds a good spot, and BAM hits a valve bending the IV in Brinley’s arm. They try again on another spot which in turn, the vein slips, and they try and fish for it, I’m literally holding my daughter down, and I look up at her and notice her pupils are going in and out; she’s sweating and screaming like a wild animal... she's seconds away from passing out. I tell them to stop. I’m a wreck.
The next day Brinley is scheduled for her Bone marrow aspiration and they take her in, put her out and pull marrow from two places in her back. When she arrives out of the surgery I notice they have put an IV in her foot…there is nothing left in her arms. I was proud of her to see how well she bounced back from the bone marrow, she was a little sore, but still very active. The next day rolls around and I think that it’ll be easy going because no results come in until Friday, and there are no procedures booked, so it’s basically a free day. Brin and I go to The Beach (huge kid’s play and activity area) and do some crafts, play with a doll house, the usual. Noon rolls around and we go back to her room for lunch and the doctors come in. They inform me that the results being finished, and they expect them by 2pm, and if I could please call my husband to be here as well. At this point your brain kind of does a switch into survival mode. Deep down I knew something was wrong, deep down every fibre of my body knew that something was seriously wrong with Brinley, but you talk yourself out of it. As a human, you ignore your instincts and try and reassure yourself that everything is “fine”. I ask Blake to be at the hospital by 2, and that Brinley’s results are in and they need to speak with us. I can’t say he was relieved but, in a sense we’re both thinking, “We can finally take her home”. Blake shows up at 1:30, and Brinley’s nurse Stacey (I remember her name because she was amazing with Brin) takes Brin to do some crafts and make cupcakes.
At 2pm Brinley’s doctor comes into her room and says he would rather talk about this somewhere else, again I know it’s bad news, but I chose to ignore that and tell myself that it’s probably a long drawn out conversation about Brinley having a virus…silly I know. Dr Desai takes us to the children’s oncology unit into the confrence room to have a chat about Brinley. He leaves the room to get his notes, and a social worker comes in to “help us” with the news. The moment she reaches out to tell us who she is I see her name tag, and it all hits me at once. This is NOT good news, this is not a virus, there is something wrong and I just lose it. Blake panics because I’m crying and nobody has told us anything, in which all I can do is reply that, “I’m scared”. Dr Desai came in, and rambled off blood counts, the whole time I’m thinking, “just say the words” and he does.
“Your daughter has leukemia”