Saturday, January 18, 2014

Cancer Series: Bone Marrow Transplant Anniversary

*I posted this several months ago on my family blog, so today is not her actual BMT anniversary*

Cancer happens to other people and their families. You read about it in sad books, watch about it in movies and you get asked to donate to cancer research funds. It's a sad thing, but it's not part of your life. You don't give it much thought because you don't think you'll ever have to...

December 7, 2011. My baby sister Nicole had been sick with an ear infection. That night, she spit up blood. My dad took her to the ER and she was then life flighted to Primary Children's. I'll never forget the text from my mom the next morning that told me Nicole had both AML and ALL leukemia. Having both of those leukemias is pretty much unheard of, especially in a baby. Her chances of survival were less than 10%. She was only four and a half months old.

I'll never forget when Tyson and I went to visit her for the first time. It was unquestionably the worst weekend of my life. I'll never forget watching my dad holding her tiny, lifeless hand and crying his eyes out. I'll never forget her PICU nurse telling me I needed to be prepared to help my parent's bury a child. 

I'll never forget the smile she found for me when she was literally drooling and pooping blood. I'll never forget the heart wrenching bruises that covered her body. 

I'll never forget crying myself to sleep because I wished more than anything that there was a way that I could take her place. It hurt so bad to watch her suffer so much.

But there were angels in her room and she was aware of their presence. Jesus loves little children and I knew He was with her every step of the way, especially when her family couldn't be. And when I looked into Nicole's eyes, I knew that she could see Him beside her. Although I could not take her place or take away her pain, I knew that Christ had felt everything she was feeling. I knew that He could and would comfort her in ways I couldn't.

Doctrine and Covenants 84:88

Nicole's doctors were not confident that she would live long enough to undergo a bone marrow transplant. They had to set back the date for the transplant because her body just wouldn't get ready. But she made it. She received a bone marrow transplant on May 25, 2012. I am so grateful to the woman who was willing to go through the painful procedure of donating her bone marrow to a little baby she'd never met. Someday, probably not in this life, I will get to meet the woman who saved my sister. I hope I'll be able to find the words to express just how much I love her and appreciate her donation that saved my sister's life.

Nicole has made this entire leukemia thing more difficult than the average leukemia case. So, I guess it shouldn't have been a surprise when she took a severe turn for the worse in the months following her transplant. She was sick with the whooping couch, summer flu/cold, pneumonia and graft vs host disease. Each of those things individually had the potential to kill her. She had to be completely sedated and paralyzed. She was on respiratory life support. It was a very long summer. From a strictly medical standpoint, she really shouldn't have survived it. But she did. And she got to come home at last.

I'll never forget the first time I went to my parents' house and Nicole was there. It felt like home to see her there. It felt like our family was complete again.

My favorite part of Nicole being home? She and Jace can finally be best friends!

Side effects from radiation and chemotherapy are things Nicole will have to face her entire life, and even though she is doing so well, she needs time to fully recover. But still, Nicole is our little miracle. She is so sweet and so precious. She is beautiful. I am so thankful that she is still in our lives here on earth. I could go on and on about the miracles I've witnessed regarding my sister.

"I Am like a Star"

I am like a star shining brightly,
Smiling for the whole world to see.
I can do and say happy things each day,
For I know Heav’nly Father loves me.

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