Delayed Intensification Begins

My cousin, Isabelle Calmar 2.16.93 – 12.19.10

May 2, 2017

We made it through the first day of the cycle named “delayed intensification”. The purpose of this cycle is to come at the cancer very hard, which basically pummels the patient and the disease at the same time. Calum received chemo in his spine while under anesthesia, two chemos intravenously, and one oral dose at home in the form of steroids. He goes back Friday for another dose of chemo. This will be repeated for the next three Tuesdays and then he will have a new set of treatments for the second month of this cycle. There is a lot more to it, but it’s a little too inundating to explain in depth.

I don’t know why but I almost expected there to be something ceremonious about today. The doctors, however, were matter of fact and calm about everything, which made me feel so much better. Mike and I have been anxious about starting this cycle for months. We were upset driving into the hospital this morning, and there was a literal rain cloud over the city but, once again, another enlightening event transpired today which gifted me strength and perspective.

The day Mike and I got engaged, a stranger gave us a gift. We were in Oregon at a winery and a man started chatting to us. We told him we had just been engaged, and he was so genuinely happy for us. He pulled from his pocket two Medjugorie medals that he handed us each, from the sacred grounds in Bosnia where six visionaries in 1981 saw apparitions of the Blessed Mother. Many miracles and incredible healing have transpired there. Having this stranger hand Mike and I a Medjugorje medal on the day of our engagement felt like an unbelievably great omen, and it has been. We have been so blessed to have such strength in our relationship and such a strong love and appreciation for our family. I have carried the medal with me whenever I felt like I needed extra protection over the last several years, and I wore it around my neck every day of Calum’s induction treatment until I had been told he achieved remission, even though it had been giving me a rash where it hit my chest.  This morning, before leaving the house, I slipped the medal once more into my back pocket for a little extra protection.

While grabbing a drink of water from the hospital pantry, I came into the presence of a child suffering from DIPG. I know about DIPG because we lost my cousin, Isabelle Calmar, to DIPG in 2010 when she was just 16 years old after a nearly unprecedented three-year battle with it. There is no cure, and the five-year survival rate is less than 1% – there are no survivors. The little girl I saw today was maybe 11 years old. She was adorable. Her grandparents and mother accompanied her and each of them was wearing a “DIPG picked the wrong girl. She fights back!” t-shirt. Right there my heart crumbled into a million pieces and I began to shake. I walked quickly back to where Calum and Mike were sitting, and told Mike what I had seen while trying to not to totally lose it. Seeing that little girl  made me realize it was time to pass my medal along. I have become familiar with many faces on the pediatric floor, but this family was unfortunately new to me. I first noticed the grandfather because of his shirt and the rosary he carried so I wanted to pass the medal to him. I was very, very nervous about approaching them, however, and I didn’t want to scare the little girl. I thought it would be best to pass it off to an adult who may better understand the significance.

When I was sitting with Mike telling him I needed to give them my medal, the little girl, her mother and grandmother had disappeared somewhere because, amazingly, by the time I gathered enough courage to approach them, the grandfather was sitting there all alone. I walked over to him and sat down. I wished I could have remained stronger during our interaction, but I couldn’t stop my tears.  I told him I noticed his shirt and briefly explained that I wanted to give him my medal. I handed it to him with a post-it note with the words “Lady of Medjugorje” scribbled on it so he could look it up in case he had not heard of it before. I was mad at myself for becoming emotional because I didn’t want them take away from their strength. Despite my emotion,  the grandfather seemed touched and  was very appreciative of my gesture. I could tell he wanted to talk more and asked about why I was at the hospital, but I wanted to be brief. I wished him hope and the best of luck and walked back to Mike and Calum.

As much as Calum went through today and as much as he will endure over the next two months, we have every reason to believe he will be cured and we will all be together for the long haul and, for that alone, I could not be any more grateful for where we are. May God bless us all.

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