On September 1st, 2015, we welcomed Harmony, our third child, into the world. Ten fingers, ten toes, she was absolutely perfect.
We did notice a small bump, just under the skin next to her left eye. Concerned, I asked our pediatrician and he assured me it was a tiny cyst, very common and nothing to worry about. Reassured that it would disappear as she grew, I stopped worrying and continued to enjoy our beautiful angel.
In mid-December, I noticed this tiny bump that I did not need to worry about had started to become very noticeable – red, angry and enlarged. Our pediatrician immediately sent us to the hospital for an ultrasound. We were told it was a dermoid cyst that had become infected. One week before Christmas, Harmony was admitted to the hospital to receive IV antibiotics. Three days later, we were home with an oral antibiotic and assurance that it should get better soon. But instead, it worsened, growing larger.
Another ultrasound. A very long wait. The doctors told us it was not a cyst but a solid mass. Harmony would need a biopsy and would have to travel to London for this procedure.
Now the size of a ping pong ball, the mass was pulling on her eye. She was examined by a team of doctors in London and, after what seemed like an eternity, we were told it was a tumour. The biopsy would determine if it was malignant and if Harmony would need to start chemotherapy right away.
I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach. I couldn’t breathe. I broke down in tears. This was the furthest thing from my mind. She is only a baby.
Everything moved very quickly. We were admitted and by the evening of the following day knew that the tumour was malignant but they didn’t know yet what kind of cancer it was. Four days later, our oncologist called and said she had the preliminary results.
On January 13th, 2016, we took the longest drive of our lives back to London to meet with her oncologist, Dr. Cairney. I sat on a couch next to my husband, holding Harmony in my arms, with my mom and dad and our social worker there for support. The doctor told us the most devastating news I have ever received in my life: my sweet baby girl had a Rhabdoid tumour, a rare aggressive cancer with a low survival rate.
I started to cry inconsolably, holding onto Harmony so tight, wishing this was all just a nightmare and I was going to wake up. But this was my reality and, at that moment, I became the mother of child with cancer.
This journey has had many ups and downs, tears and fears, but through it all I have had to be strong for Harmony, to be her voice. This little girl has been through more than most people go through in a lifetime. She has endured countless procedures, pokes and prods, blood and platelet transfusions and nine rounds of chemo, with the heartbreaking side effects. I watched as her tiny body became so fragile I feared she would break, her beautiful thick hair falling out in a matter of days, counting down to three eyelashes before they were completely gone.
Harmony, the angel that she is, always manages to smile through it all. That is what keeps me going. She is my hero!
This journey has taught me not to take anything for granted. It’s shown me how incredible our family and friends are; the amount of support we have is tremendous. It’s brought amazing new people into our lives, people who have become part of our family.
I was overwhelmed by the support that is given outside of family, not only financially but emotionally as well. The organizations that are helping families like ours cope with childhood cancer are incredible: Childcan, POGO, RMH, the amazing hospitals and teams of doctors and nurses that go above and beyond for my angel!
It has been a very long six months. This disease has affected so many people; it shows no mercy. Harmony’s journey is not over yet. In May, she received a stem cell transplant and, for now, completed treatment. We have weekly follow ups. We hope and pray that all will be clear and stay that way and, one day soon, we can say she beat cancer. She’s not a statistic; she’s a survivor!