Part V -- Our Second Miracle
The day of Maddie's surgery was the longest day of my life.... waiting to hear something, anything. At that point I couldn't have told you what day it was, what time, possibly not even the month. We just sat there Ratchlet, TA, TA's mom, Mikey, and me. Oh we would make desultary conversation occasionally, but often it would just kind of fade away with no point. Frequently, it was more the, "What do you think is taking so long??" or "She'll be fine, right?" variety. Now and then someone would start to cry from the worry. We could have been there 3 days or 3 hours, it was immaterial. There was only one thing we could focus on, when was the surgeon going to come out and talk to us....and even more frequently, "please God, let her be all right!"
I have no recollection the time the surgeon finally came into the waiting room. What I remember is seeing the door open and there he was. He told us that the surgery had gone well and that Maddie was in the Recovery Room and would be for a while.
Then he got to the part we were dreading, what they found. There indeed was a tumor, about the size of a small grapefruit! They did a biopsy and it was malignant. My stomach dropped to my toes! HOWEVER, he went on. The biopsy showed a Stage I cancer (extremely early stage), the tumor had been completely external to the liver, and they had been able to remove it entirely, with clear margins all around. Maddie's type of cancer (tumor of the liver) was called an Hepatablastoma. It was extremely rare, happening in only ONE IN A MILLION BIRTHS! The treatment protocols for Hepatablastoma with Stage I, complete removal, and clear margins was NO FURTHER TREATMENT NECESSARY!
WHAT? No Radiation? No Chemo? No nothing??? No, nothing except monitoring. We couldn't believe what we were hearing. No additional treatment at all. I asked the doctor, "Okay, help me here, are you saying that yesterday Maddie had cancer and today she doesn't??? He answered, "Yeah, that's pretty much it." In essence, it was over!
We were euphoric, as you might expect. Our little girl, our Maddie-the-Great, won out over cancer!
Later, after we had come back down to earth, we learned that there would be a regular schedule of monthly blood tests and frequent ultrasounds and MRIs that would diminish over time as long as there was no reappearance of the cancer. The blood test, we learned, would measure a protein called by the acronym AFP. Evidently this protein is an indicator of the presence of cancer in the body. I am unclear if it is specific to Hepatablastoma, but that was what they would watch. In a healthy child the "normal" level is anything under 9 (of whatever unit they were measuring). Before Maddie's surgery her AFP level was over 9,000!! [A month after the surgery Maddie had the first of her post surgery blood tests. The AFP level was around 7. In subsequent months the level dropped to between 2 and 3 and has remained there ever since!]
Maddie returned to her room later that afternoon, as she still under the effects of the anesthesia, she had an IV, and a catheter and a 10-inch incision site that ran from her right side around to just under the middle of her ribcage. Nevertheless, she wasn't in any pain, she slept a lot, and was doing fine. She spent Thursday and Friday being monitored and receiving post-surgical care. They got her up and walking fairly quickly. Our biggest challenge was to try to keep her from trying to move around too much. She was getting restless but that was to be expected. Saturday morning she was released and returned home.
It was about then that I returned to normal breathing, the clocks started moving again, and we returned to the real world. The entire thing, from start to finish, had happened in exactly 6 days. SIX Days!!!
In February 2010, Maddie will reach the 5th anniversary of her surgery. It is that important 5 year milestone of being CANCER-FREE that every cancer patient hopes for. Today she is a normal, healthy, very smart 3rd grader who loves to read, play softball, and is a Girl Scout. (She's also tall for her age! Go figure!)
Now if there is anyone out there reading story who doesn't think this is a miracle, I can only say, this is the truth, and as far as I can tell, there is no other explanation possible.
Twice in her 3.5 year lifespan, Maddie had, "against all odds," overcome a serious condition which could have ended her life....but didn't!
Maddie-the-Great is our double-miracle child, and she will be surrounded by her thankful family all of her life!