Ups and Downs

November 27, 2017

It has been a long and interesting week of highs and lows. Tuesday morning was probably the low point. We woke to take Calum into the hospital for his “spinal tap”. Before Calum got Leukemia, the phrase “spinal tap” might as well have been a fictional procedure, having little-to-no meaning to me, and I certainly never imagined it being a regular occurrence for my son. At the hospital, spinal taps are clinically referred to as a “lumbar puncture”. Semantics aside, the procedure consists of Calum undergoing general anesthesia, after which a large needle is placed into his spine and a dose of a strong chemotherapy drug called “Methotrexate” is infused into his spinal fluid.

On the day of the procedure, Calum is not allowed food or water which is very tough on a young child, let alone anyone, to make it through until noon without anything to eat or drink. When we arrive at the hospital (usually around 8:30am for an 11am procedure, which always is about an hour behind schedule), a nurse accesses his port and takes blood cultures. Then, we meet with our doctor to go over any questions/concerns and discuss his blood counts. We are released back into the waiting area to distract Calum until he is called into the procedure room. The procedure room is as scary as you would imagine it to be, especially to a little kid. There are usually two doctors, an anesthesiologist, and one nurse in the room. There is a table in the center under a bright, overhead light. I sit Calum on the table and he begins nervously asking questions about when he can eat and what is happening. He can sense something serious is about to happen. The doctors and nurses try to ask him distracting questions, but he only looks to Mike and me for answers and reassurance. I tell him that he is going to get some medicine and it is going to make him sleepy and that he can eat as soon as he wakes up. Calum’s legs straddle me on the edge of the table, and I hug him from his seated position as the anesthesiologist intravenously delivers the sedative and his body becomes lifeless in my arms. I lay him back onto the table and we leave the room to wait. The first time I had to do this with Calum, it sent me into hysterics. We have done this at least ten times to date and have nine remaining in Calum’s maintenance protocol (it’s once every 3 months until March 7th, 2020). Initially the shock of how quickly he went limp from the anesthesia was what upset me. His health was so fragile and his unresponsive body was such a frightening vision. Now, it is somewhat of a flashback to that time, reminding me this is all still very real. In his usual fashion, however, Calum came out of the procedure like a champ. He’s essentially intoxicated and, luckily, he’s a great drunk. He slurred non-stop gibber-gabber the whole way home, sipping chocolate milk and munching a fresh baguette as if nothing happened – a high point in my day.

The rest of the week presented many more ups and downs as we began Calum’s five-day steroid pulse that evening. We hosted an awesome Thanksgiving on Thursday with an amazing dinner cooked by Rita and specialty cranberry martinis by Mike. Aside from one steroid-induced meltdown from Calum, it was full of love and overwhelming amounts of thanks. The gratitude engulfed as we enjoyed the simplicity of a delicious home-cooked meal and the magnitude of the blessing of a healthy family all together brought us all to tears.

Saturday morning we went to cut down our Christmas tree for the first time with friends and family from Larchmont. Calum and Faye ran around with all the other little kids, as if life were perfectly normal for the day. We got a great tree and, in the words of the great Clark W. Griswold, it was “a little full, a lot of sap”. We decorated on Sunday and, in the midst of all the Christmas cheer, I looked down to notice the diamond from my engagement ring was missing.  Of course, I had been all over the damn house that morning gathering Christmas stuff and going through boxes, making it near impossible to narrow down an area where it might be. I scoured the house looking madder than a March hare whispering, “Dear St. Anthony, please come around! Something is lost that can’t be found!!”  Mike went tearing through files to make sure our insurance payments were up-to-date while battling his urge to vom. Rita had come over to visit and was helping us look and, just before I was about to rip open the trash bag and dump it all over our back patio, I heard her screaming in a fast, high-pitched voice, “I FOUND IT! I FOUND IT! I FOUND IT!” It had been up in our room wedged between a groove in the carpet. Elation ensued as the kids obliviously cheered, we group hugged, and I shouted with disregard for little ears, “I can’t fucking believe it!!”

In the end, it all turned out fine. All the tough and seemingly unfortunate situations were not  as bad as I’d worried they would be and, typically, they never are. Tomorrow we look forward to our hilarious and spunky Faye turning two-years-old and, while basking in the glow of Thanksgiving and in anticipation of the magic of Christmas with little kids, through some real hurdles and emotional swings, this has been one of the most precious weeks of my life.

6 thoughts on “Ups and Downs

  1. Caitlin You are an incredible women and you Mike and Calum are in my prayers every night, Happy
    New year all the best in 2018. Tom Gaffney

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  2. Caitlin McKinnon McCormick Murray…Love you to pieces!!! This writing is healing all of us. Helping me to remember what is most important in this life . Calum has been such a gift and a reflection of all that is pure and magical in ways that are difficult to explain. Speechless and humbled. So grateful Love my beautiful Family. Mumma

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  3. Caitlin,
    You are an inspiration. Your journey with Calum is amazing and chronicled with such love, compassion and inspiration. Thank you for sharing it with your friend Abigail who has shared each update with us. We love you and are so proud of you and Mike. Love to all of you, Brigid and Jim Lamb

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  4. Love love you four! Your love, courage, strength, and vulnerability are such a treasure and beauty. Thinking of you always. xoxo Lex and the Emich fam

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