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.
Part four: 'momcologist'
Mitchells cancer protocol required two years of chemotherapy. After 63 days of constant medical care and support, Mitchell was discharged. Frank and I were excited, yet terrified, to take our baby home.
He had an IV line connected to the main artery of his heart with two lumens ( medical tubes used to draw blood) hanging on the outside of his body. We trained with nurses on how to administer medication with syringes into the lumens. We learned how to run an IV machine so that we could give him fluids at night.
To eliminate confusion on dosage amounts and times, I took the lead on giving all meds.
We made visits three or more times per week to Novant Blume Pediatric Oncology Clinic for blood count checks and any needed blood transfusions.
I kept a suitcase packed, because at a moments notice something could change in Mitchells health that required us to check into the hospital. To this day, I keep a suitcase packed and ready.
Since Mitchell could not yet talk, we watched him very closely for any signs of distress. The intensity of this kind of monitoring was draining.
Transitioning from living in the hospital where everyone understood our new reality back to life among my peers was very hard. My friends wanted to visit or take me to dinner, but we had a no visitor rule and I had to be home at night to administer chemo and start Mitchells IV fluids. I became more isolated from my social groups.
Since Pat was there to care for Mitchell during the day, work became an escape from my new role as a momcologist.
I would dress in business attire and walk into business meetings where associates would ask about Mitchell. I would respond by saying things like today is good or Im grateful that hes still fighting. Then, Id shift talk to business and relish in the hour or so of normalcy that sitting at the conference table provided.
Mitchell had been in an intense fight to beat infant leukemia for 9 months when weight of the stress I had been so effectively managing began to crash down on me.
The Hickman IV line lumens were showing wear from so much use. The IV needed to be replaced. During surgery, Mitchells small artery would not accept the new IV line.
He lost over 30% of his blood. The medical team described what was a scary moment for them when they had to apply extraordinary pressure to stop bleeding.
When Mitchell woke, the left side of his face had fallen and there was concern he may have experienced a stroke. It was terrifying and a shock for Frank and me. We waited. They ruled out a stroke. As months passed, his face returned to normal. We were grateful.
Soon after, a baby we were close to took a turn for the worse.
I stood at the bedside with my friend and fellow momcologist and watched her tiny baby on a respirator. I watched a fearless, young mother with unimaginable strength and steadfast hope. My worst nightmare unfolded before my eyes.
I felt desperate and helpless. I prayed. I was angry. I finally cried.
I was overcome by an intense feeling of responsibility to save my own childs life. I became vigilant and my senses were intensified. For the first time in our journey, I understood the reality of pediatric cancer. I had to release all the emotions that had been building for months.
I wanted people to see what this cruel disease was doing to children; children that I loved.
I wanted to scream out for the families who are confined to hospitals and for the children who brave radiation and invasive surgeries to remove tumors.
I wanted people to feel the shock that I felt as I watched my 15 pound baby take and become sick from poisonous chemotherapy treatments that we hoped would cure the cancer that was hiding in his body.
I called my hairdresser and set an appointment to shave my head.
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 Mitchells 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.