Leif was busy with his first year at middle school when he started to get sick more often than usual. We didn’t think much of it because it was Fall, and sicknesses were starting to go around. When he started to be unusually tired and have stomach problems, his dad, who is a radiologist, took him in to the clinic to do a quick ultra sound. We thought maybe he had mono and an enlarged spleen. I remember it taking a long time before he came back, and when he reached me, the tears started. Before the day was over Leif would be diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and admitted to the hospital to immediately begin chemotherapy. That week he celebrated his 12th birthday in a room in the hospital.
Overnight our lives changed. Grandparents moved in and began caring for the three other children – our youngest child was only 2 – while it seemed we lived at the hospital. The first year was very hard. There were countless IVs, blood transfusions, bone pain, nausea and many other difficult experiences. The hardest things for Leif were days of being unable to leave his bed, not being able to play sports and be a regular kid, and all the side effects of the medications. A blood clot which led to more than 80 shots in the stomach and a fractured spine as his bones became weaker were two of the more challenging side effects of treatment.
Leif has battled cancer for two years and if all goes well only has 16 months left of treatment. Fortunately for him, he has a network of amazing family members, friends, and healthcare providers who have been our lifeline on this journey. Even strangers have reached out with love. Leif’s faith in God and desire to learn from cancer and help others has given him courage at some of the hardest times. One time when his port (where they access his blood) wasn’t working, I felt very discouraged. It was late at night and we were alone in a room in the hospital. He said, “Mom, there’s a reason for this. Maybe there’s someone we need to help in the hospital.” That has been his attitude throughout this process. No one wants cancer, but we are stronger, more compassionate, and braver people because of it. We love this community and all of the kind and generous people we have come to know because of this journey. Our silver lining is beautiful.