I just returned from a trip to Tulsa – a gift from Mike Hall, the husband of Shelley, my best friend there. He flew me home for the weekend as a gift to her to surprise her for her 40th birthday, which was incredible in itself. But it was also a gift to me, as I was able to visit with my family while home and to go see Steven in the hospital. (Thank you so much, Mike.)
Let me tell you this … it is one thing to KNOW that a child has basically been living in a bed since the beginning of February. It is quite another to be IN the situation; to see how finely attuned his parents are to any nurses’ visits or discussions of medication; to see evidence of the fact that this room is also a home to those same dedicated parents, with groceries and items nearby because they are constantly at their son’s side; to see the tubes and machines and to hear the noises that accompany that sort of hospital time, knowing how difficult it is for anyone to rest in an environment like that; to watch my brother rush out to go pick up the girls and keep the home fires burning while Denise is at the hospital; to see that sweet boy and how challenging his life has become as he continues to bravely fight a battle against infection and illness that a child should never endure. The gravity of the situation begins to sink in even deeper when you are there and surrounded by it.
I say child … Steven and I took our early birthday picture together. His 18th birthday falls a few days after my 40th – it is next Monday, April 12, 2010. If there is anything wonderful about an Aries, it is that strong will and spirit to endure … even in pain, even when times are tough. My heart swelled as a smile slid across his face as we talked quietly. It was so good to see him. Here is our birthday photo:
For months I have been asking many of you to send cards of encouragement or motivation to Steven to help cheer him on during his fight. Now Steven is going to have his 18th birthday in the hospital as he continues to try to fight this infection with hopes of then receiving further chemo to then stop that stupid cancer in its tracks.
IT’S TIME TO SEND BIRTHDAY CARDS!!!
Team Steven, I hope you will take a moment this week to join me in celebrating Steven by sending him a birthday card as he nears his 18th birthday on Monday, April 12! You can mail your card to:
c/o Denise Sargent
10111 S. Sandusky Ave.
Tulsa, OK 74137
When I went today for a second visit before leaving to return to Cali, Jeff’s kids (Courtney and Parker, visiting for the weekend) went to the hospital with me, hoping to see Steven and wish him a Happy Easter. Steven was getting a breathing treatment when we arrived and was pretty tired, but he did finally realize we were there and we were able to tell him Happy Easter. I even got another half smile out of him before I left as I told him I wanted him to get well so he could come to California to walk along the sand with me near the ocean.
As the three of us walked back down the hall quietly afterward, I looked down at Parker, age 11, struggling to fight back his tears as they fell down his cheeks. I put my arm around his shoulder and said, “I know, buddy. It’s okay. It’s hard to see him like that … I know. It’s okay. I did the same thing when I left yesterday. It’s hard.”
Courtney (age 17, like Steven) remained silent and stoic, nodding in agreement. Having recently seen a family friend battle cancer, I could see she was internalizing her emotions while trying to stay strong for her brother. It was a poignant moment for the three of us near the elevator, as the last time we had all seen Steven together he was much stronger and healthier. Gravity. It’s pretty heavy sometimes.
While on his pain meds, Steven had once again exercised his dangerous Houdini escape habit of pulling out tubes early Friday morning (despite restraints – he’s too thin for them). He pulled out the PICC line that had just been put in – pretty major since it was threaded through a vein in his right arm up to his chest area, so that was scary. While he was sedated on Friday, they placed another PICC line and drained another 3 liters of fluid from his tummy. He had a temporary dialysis catheter put in his groin area, and continued to get dialysis through the weekend. Sleep has been hard to come by this past weekend for him and he’s been very restless. Right now the infections are what we are most concerned with, and they hope for an update about his peritoneum infection on Monday. It is extremely hard to cure, so focus is needed right now on healing that infection before moving forward.
I wrote part of this on the plane after a layover on the way back to California. As I was writing this section (jotting my thoughts on a notepad – no, I was not improperly using my electronic devices), I looked out the plane window and saw individual rays of sunlight shooting through gaps in the Dallas clouds as we prepared to depart. I looked to those rays of light as an Easter sign of strength, glory, beauty and healing, as it was directly visible in the area outside my window and nowhere else.
The more I focused on the area, the brighter the rays breaking through the clouds became. I was reminded of the miracles that have unexpectedly and continually shrouded this child. And I began to cry … right there on the plane as we prepared for takeoff, relieved I had chosen a window seat. I wiped my tears as we left the ground and sailed into those same clouds that had just sent me yet another sign of hope.
I was sad to leave my family. I wanted to still be there to hold my sister-in-law’s hand and hug my brother once more. I wanted to stay longer at the hospital, to be with Steven longer and get to know Steve better. I wanted to hug my mom again. I was angry with cancer. I was worried about Steven not getting enough sleep. I was awed by the strength of his parents and my brother’s ability to juggle so much. More than anything, I was heartbroken that this beautiful boy – nay, this young man … he IS almost 18, after all – has had to endure this terrible illness. It’s just not fair.
As I rose above the clouds in that manmade contraption that manages to get me across the country in only a few hours (Hello! Miracle!), I looked at the sun now bouncing off the soft, white billows below. The one word that kept echoing in my head was BELIEVE. So that is what I intend to do. I will BELIEVE that Steven will fight this horrible abdominal infection and win. I told him to envision himself as strong and healthy, and I will, too. I will BELIEVE he will be able to get the chemo and kick that cancer to the curb. I will BELIEVE that he will find his way back to health. I WILL BELIEVE. Won’t you join me in that? JOIN ME in continuing to send Steven love and healing thoughts against these crazy infections.
This post tonight is a bit more personal than medical in nature, but I wanted all of you to be able to get a different glimpse of what this family lives every day, to feel what it’s like to walk into that hospital room, to understand even more the bravery of this courageous young man who keeps fighting, despite any odds laid against him.
I will tell you this: A smile from that sweet boy is like seeing the smile of an angel, and is the greatest gift imaginable. I keep it in my heart upon my return to California. As I told him, I will still be thinking of him every minute of every day. I just love him. I know you have all come to love him, too. Thank you. Keep sending love, good thoughts and prayers to heal those infections!! And …
PLEASE SEND THOSE BIRTHDAY CARDS!!! 🙂
Let’s see how many he will get! Stop by the store today and get yours for him! It will mean so much to watch the love pouring in for his birthday.