I had been a blood donor for years, but had to give that up due to my kidney disease. The last thing I expected was that my own baby girl, my perfect daughter, Brynn, would be the recipient of those gifts from other donors.
Brynn had been suffering for more than a week with a terrible sore throat. Strep, doctors thought. But antibiotics did not make a dent in her symptoms. A virus, an emergency room doctor said. Rest and fluids. After a week of barely eating and regular vomiting, she saw our family doctor. He gave her a steroid (which allowed her to eat and sleep), and sent her for blood work. She did that the next day. A Saturday. THE Saturday, as I will always remember it.
Brynn, shopping for groceries, sounding better than she had in days, called me that afternoon. We chatted for a bit and hung up, but not long after, Brynn called again. The doctor from the lab, breaking protocol, phoned her directly and told her that the emergency department at Foothills Hospital was waiting for her. He hated to tell her, but didn’t want it to wait until her own doctor saw the results on Monday. She had leukemia.
That news, not even two years after the death of my sister, Brynn’s aunt, from breast cancer, sent the whole family reeling. How could Brynn have cancer? She’s too young, only 25, too perfect. It wasn’t fair! But cancer never is.
With that diagnosis, the medical system kicked it into high gear, and left us dizzy from the speed of their care. The hospital admitted her and, within a couple of hours, she was in a room in unit 57 of the Tom Baker Cancer Centre. The next day, a bone marrow biopsy. Then Monday, they inserted a CVC and chemo began. In under 48 hours, our world had changed.
Brynn didn’t tolerate the chemotherapy well. She landed in ICU where she received her first transfusion. Each round of chemo brought more challenges. Some days, like the one she fainted in my arms, she’d get two units of blood plus those milky-apple-juice bags of platelets.
The fact is, without the generosity of Canadians who open their hearts, and their veins, and give what doesn’t cost a penny, my oldest child might have died. Now, how could I have lived with that? I am grateful to those strangers that I didn’t need to find out.
Brynn is in remission. Back to work, back to real life. The good parts of life. And none of us will ever be quite the same.