Witness to a miracle: diagnosis | MomsCharlotte.com

Witness to a miracle: diagnosis

Mitchell gets blood transfusion the day of diagnosis
- Mitchell gets blood transfusion the day of diagnosis

It's every parent's worst fear, lived out by Charlotte mom, Meg McElwain, as her son, Mitchell, was diagnosed with pediatric cancer at just 3 months of age. Join Meg as she courageously shares her family's story in a eight-part guest blog series, Witness to a Miracle: Mitchell's fight against pediatric cancer.

Written by Meg McElwain

I am mother to Frank and Mitchell, two very special little boys. Each of them has a special story and a special place in my heart. My blog over the next few weeks will focus on my second child, Mitchell, and how his birth, baptism and life have changed our family in an extreme way in just two short years.

Read Part one: before diagnosis

I arrived with Mitchell and Pat, his nanny, at Eastover Pediatrics around 8:30 a.m. on Monday, June 18, 2012.

The nurse met us in the lobby immediately and took us back to a room.

Dr. Giftos examined Mitchell and called for blood tests. When he returned to the room, he looked worried and his voice was rapid. I knew something serious was happening.

He said Mitchell’s blood tests were not good; he was anemic and his white blood count was very high. I held Mitchell, rocked him and nodded, waiting for more information. He called Novant Hemby Children’s Hospital and told me a blood specialist was waiting for us there.

The nurses were preparing a bed for Mitchell.

A bed? What did he mean? Would we be staying at the hospital? My mind started to race. I calmly ordered him to be more clear and direct with his words.

He said the best case was that there was an infection in Mitchell’s blood. Then he paused and said the worst case is he has cancer.


The world literally stopped at that moment.

My surroundings felt like a vacuum. I was completely shocked. Pat started to cry. My attention returned and I was intently focused. All I could think was that if our trusted pediatrician just used a word like “cancer” to give me my baby’s test results, this indeed was a very serious situation.

I closed my eyes and asked God to be with us. I asked for my late mother to come to us. I needed to feel them with me and Mitchell. We needed their protection.

Next, I called Frank. I told him what to pack and where to meet us.

I gathered paperwork. I called for a minister Myers Park United Methodist to meet us at the hospital.

I drove to the front door of Novant Health and unloaded Mitchell. I was calm on the outside. The world and people around me were moving, but my functioning and thinking were surreal.

The nurses needed immediate access to his veins for a blood transfusion. I laid my body over Mitchell and held him tight against the procedure table as the nurses searched for a vein in his tiny arm. I sang the hymn Allelulia No. 1, another of my favorite hymns. Mitchell screamed and looked at me to save him.

The day passed with a flurry of activity in and out of our hospital room.

The oncologist told us by noon she was more than 95 percent sure that Mitchell had white blood cell cancer. In my ignorance of the disease, I had no idea that was leukemia.

Around 4 p.m., the oncologist confirmed that Mitchell had a rare form of infant Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (Infant ALL) and only had a 40% chance of survival.

Based on his blood counts, she believed we caught it early but he would need surgery the next morning. Surgery would include inserting a double lumen Hickman IV line into the main artery of his heart where chemo could be administered, a bone marrow aspiration and injection of three types of chemotherapy drugs into his spine.

Suddenly Frank and I had to make decisions that we prayed would save our baby’s life.

The nurse gave us a mobile for Mitchell’s hospital crib. It played the hymn “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee,” the same hymn from Mitchell’s baptism service the previous day.

I knew God was there. He heard my cry. He would not leave me. I felt calm and settled in for the first of what would be 63 consecutive nights in the hospital.

Read Part 3: A New Reality

alternate text Meg McElwain is wife to Frank Turner, III, and mother to 4 ½ year old Frank and 2 year old Mitchell. Lucy is her loyal Labrador retriever. Meg has owned and operated Magnolia Marketing in Charlotte for over a decade. She volunteers and serves the community. After, Mitchell was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at only 3 months old, Meg felt God calling her to use Mitchell’s fight to beat cancer and her journey as his mother to inspire and help others. Meg and Frank established the Mitchell Bays Turner Pediatric Fund within the Novant Health Foundation and raise money to support, educate and advocate for families facing challenging pediatric diagnosis.

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