Before I explain this journey, I wanted to tell you what sort of person I am, what sort of Mama I am and our background. Before Artie was born, we suffered 3 miscarriages. it broke my heart and it reached a bit of a peak with my mental health when I drove to the seafront in the middle of the night, got out in my pyjamas and walked out in the dark towards the sea with the intention of just throwing myself into the sea and never coming back. I was in a dark place, after the 2nd miscarriage something happened to my brain that I wasn’t in control of. We decided we couldn’t try again after the 3rd one because it was too painful and decided to end our journey on trying for a baby and go into the adoption route. I was absolutely happy with this path and thought it was right for us, although halfway through our adoption journey, I had a dream about giving birth to this baby boy, and I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. A week later I paused our adoption journey and we booked to see a private consultant where we agreed to try something else to help us have a child. It worked and in February 2016, Artie was born and I just couldn’t believe he was mine. I pushed myself to be the best Mum I could, but after everything I’d been though I was so paranoid that he was going to die. I didn’t sleep I check him all night long and it was around 7 months I was diagnosed with postnatal anxiety and depression. It took a long long time to pull myself out of the hole, but 3 years on I’m still the Mum who obsesses over fevers and lumps/bumps, analyses everything, visits the GP often to check everything. I still get up all night and check him sleeping like he is a newborn baby. I am the sort of Mum who can’t watch Stand up for cancer, cancer charity programs etc that involve children. Everything is too relatable and I just can’t watch them without getting really upset. So here is where our journey changed into a nightmare.
In May 2019, my precious son Artie had been poorly on and off for a month or so, and fast deteriorating. We had been back and fourth to the GP following four dairy poisonings at nursery and also some infected insect bites. I’ll do a full post at a later date on the symptoms. But on 24th May, I took him back because he just wasn’t right. You know as a Mum if your child isn’t right and I felt that this had just been going on too long. I didn’t get to see our usual GP who was fantastic and saw a different GP who didn’t even check anything and just said it’s a virus and sent us on our way.
On 29th May 2019, I was due to be going out for dinner with friends, but I called my husband and said, I just didn’t feel like going. I don’t know what made me say that but in turn it was probably a decision that saved his life. Dad was due to do bedtime but I did it instead, and whilst we were having a cuddle, I found a huge lump in his tummy and as a Mum, felt that awful sinking feeling, I knew something was really wrong. It was on the right side and took up most of the tummy, it felt bumpy and really hard and I waited for him to fall asleep and called 111 because I was so worried. I also called our GP helpline on our private insurance. Both said to wait until morning and take him to the GP. I sat there for hours watching him sleep and just sobbing. I already knew it was cancer, I don’t know how, but I just knew. How could I have missed this enormous lump growing? What sort of a Mum was I, how could I have not found it.
When we woke the following morning, his whole torso was distended so badly his belly button was popping out, and his whole torso was covered in dark blue visible veins. I called the GP and got an urgent appointment, only to be told to go home, pack a bag and they were sending us to the hospital and be prepared to stay in. I was so distraught I had a panic attack. Artie in his innocence asked if Mummy was sick. I was so so sad. I called my sister and told her, I know what it is, I know its Neuroblastoma. I don’t know how I knew it was cancer, but my gut just told me it was. I was so upset.
We arrived at Southend Hospital and it wasn’t long before we were taken down for an ultrasound on the tummy. I can’t tell you the dread I felt standing there while the room filled with different people and everyone while they all looked at the very large lump taking over my sons tummy. They also mentioned pleural effusion which is fluid in and around the lungs. I felt like I was watching someone else nightmare but it was my own. My precious little baby. I just felt so sick and scared. At one point I just turned around to face the wall and just closed my eyes. All I wanted to do was wake up from this nightmare. Artie was oblivious to what was going on thankfully. We went back to the ward and a consultant came to see us and said they were looking at him possibly having a condition called Neuroblastoma, which is a type of cancer. I was gutted. Paul, my husband looked at me in disbelief wondering how I knew. Although I knew what they were thinking, the reality of hearing them confirm my fears was just awful. I was devastated and spent the rest of the day on the ward having tests, I was just in a complete daze, I couldn’t think, eat, drink, I just kept hugging Artie and my mind just kept wandering to the awful possibilities and reality of this journey. I daren’t look on google, I couldn’t look.
Later that day, they got a cannula into his tiny hand and took blood. Artie was so distressed and just kept saying no mummy, it broke my heart but he had no idea on the journey we were beginning. Once they had bloods they said it was more likely to be a lymphoma and that we would be sent to Great Ormond Street the following day. Great Ormond Street? I was so sad, isn’t that where children go when they are really sick, I started to get so frightened. They started him on fluids straight away. I was in such a state I shut myself away in the parent kitchen in the early hours of the morning and sobbed louder than you could ever imagine. I couldn’t stop. It was the worst thing ever, a really kind nurse came in and just hugged me while I sobbed for what felt like forever. When it was over I took something to make me sleep and Dad had to take the reins that first night. I was a mess I couldn’t even manage basic Mum duties or anything for that matter. The following day, Artie’s face all puffy from the fluids, we were taken to GOSH by ambulance and told to head for the Giraffe ward. I sat in the ambulance feeling utterly bereft, looking at Artie just sleeping for hours on the journey, all puffy with his swollen tummy. My heart was broken. The start of our nightmare.
You’ll see in our future posts that we are fundraising in 2019 for our Giraffe ward in Great Ormond Street and you can donate here if you wanted to. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/artie – Next year we plan to do some fundraising for Neptune Ward at Southend Hospital.