The Process of Elimination

“Mommy, will I have cancer this summer?”

Callen was trotting along behind me in the yard a few weeks back when he threw this query my way. Even for our boy of a thousand questions per second, the tenor of this one was a first.

I stopped and faced him. Our eyes locked. “Yes, Callen, you will,” I said evenly. “Why do you ask?”

“Because, Mommy, it has been a long long time.”

I paused, agreed, then listened intently while he told me what he wanted to do this summer. What he hoped he could do. What he wondered if he could do. And then - without waiting for confirmation or (more probably) denial – he shifted gears.

“Oh - and how do babies get out of your tummy?”

Just like that, my ability to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth (so help us all!) vanished.

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We are running for Childhood Cancer Research! Again!!

We are running for Childhood Cancer Research! Again!!

This year Grayson Dutton, one of Callen's preschool classmates was selected as one of the two beneficiaries for the 7th Annual Reese Strong 5k and Gold Ribbon Kid's Run on Saturday September 19th at 8:30 AM. Grayson is from Mechanicsville, and was first diagnosed at 9 months old with Rhabdomyasarcoma. After a year of chemo, he was then cancer free for almost two years before another MRI showed that the cancer was back. He is currently going through radiation rounds, as well as another year of chemotherapy. The second beneficiary will be chosen by the Social Worker at the oncology clinic at MVC. All proceeds will go towards the medical bills of the beneficiaries, the ReeseStrong Family emergency Fund, and Childhood Cancer Research.

If you would like to join Team Callen for this race, please visit and join "TeamCallen".

If you're thinking about running, or having your child join in the Kid's run, you may be interested in the course route.

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Father's Day Thoughts

Having just passed my second Father’s Day as a “cancer dad”, I feel that I am now ready to say something about this experience.

Over the past 15 months my wife has very effectively relayed our family’s ordeal. Her ability to accurately and succinctly portray this rollercoaster ride is incredible. She puts so much of herself into these entries - our emotions, strengths, vulnerabilities and fears – exposed, out there for all to see. As a man this is much more difficult for me to do. Men, in general, play our cards “close to the vest”. Rarely do we lay them all out on the table revealing to everyone what we feel or fear. But here goes.

When Callen was first diagnosed and we were educated on what was to come, we carefully explained to him the need for frequent clinic visits with infusions, transfusions and invasive procedures. Life was going to be different from that point on. This was all scary enough for Katie and me, let alone for a then four year-old boy. After we finished Callen asked me, “Will you be there, too?” Without hesitation I said, “Yes.”

Then, with his chin pointed down and his big blue eyes looking up at me from under his brow, he asked very deliberately “Every single time?” I swallowed hard, bit my lip and fought to hold back the tears. “Every. Single. Time.” I assured him.

I had never felt so helpless. After all, as a father, I have a primal instinct to provide and protect. It may sound archaic, but I cannot deny its presence. All I could do was throw myself prostrate, beg God for mercy and pray for a miracle. I was useless.

Now, over a year into this journey, I’ve come to realize a lot. Recently at a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society benefit one of the speakers quoted a statistic. He said that in 1964 (which, by the way, is when I was 4 year’s old), a child diagnosed with acute leukemia had a 3% chance of survival. The fact that the same child today has a better than 90% survival rate is nothing short of a miracle. So miracles really do happen: just be patient.

I know that you can’t provide your children with everything they need (or think they need). You cannot protect them from all of the evils and uncertainties of this world. But if you can be there for them when they need you -every single time - then you are doing okay as a dad.

P.S. If not for the physicians, nurses and support staff at Virginia Ear, Nose and Throat Associates who have picked up call, covered OR cases and rescheduled patients (often at a moment’s notice), I would not have been able to both be there for my son and keep a roof over our heads. Thank you!

Going Viral

It has been more than nine weeks. Nine very long, very trying weeks: trying to get Callen recovered; trying to understand what the hell just happened; trying to get back to where we were -wherever that was!

Did we not recognize a good thing while we had it? Yes, he threw up every day. Yes, our lives were scheduled around bitter green pills and mania-inciting little white pills and nausea-inducing big white pills. Yes, we were nervous to have been given our very first 4-week hiatus from clinic (sidebar: there was no need to be nervous - about that, anyway – we didn’t even last two full weeks “on the outside”).

How could we have known that those would quickly become “the good ‘ole days” and that we’d be longing for their return?

We were barely settled in at home after the Easter weekend hospitalization when we received the call. Callen’s viral culture, drawn upon admission five days prior, had just returned positive for Parvovirus B19. They wanted us to be prepared for what would happen during the next day’s clinic visit: Callen would be placed in isolation. Contact and respiratory precautions would be in full effect. No shared physical space, no shared air space. No waiting in a waiting room. No use of the common treatment room. Gowns, gloves and masks would be required apparel for all. Terminal cleans would be ordered for any room he occupied.

This head’s up “so as not to alarm us upon arrival” was all we were given: the rest of the discussion would have to wait for the visit itself.

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