Parent-to-Parent: The Olson Family's Story
Katherine Olson writes about her family's experience when their five-year-old daughter Grace was diagnosed with a Wilm's tumor.
Our diagnosis day, January 4, 2010, our family's world changed. Our five-year-old daughter, Grace, was found to have a Wilm's tumor, stage 4.
We had one day at home to pack up for our hospital stay, and to have one more sweet day of "normal life", although nothing felt normal. But, we made the most of our special day in spite of our raw emotions.
My parents came to stay with us to be "second parents" to our two other children, we set up a Caring Bridge site, and the meals started pouring in.
The second stage of our journey was removing this huge (4 pound) tumor that had taken over Grace's right kidney. Her surgery was long, but went very well. That "baby fat" belly that Grace always had we no longer there; instead it was replaced by a huge scar that spans her right abdomen.
As soon as she healed from surgery, she started radiation on her flank. My husband, Todd, and I were very nervous about the long term effects of radiation, and were also anticipating what the effects of the chemotherapy might be.
We started researching to discover what we could do to minimize the negative effects of Grace's treatment. We also wanted to bolster her immune system and find the best lifestyle for her that we could start to implement.
Finding Where to Start in a Sea of Information
Wow. Have you ever Googled something and felt overwhelmed at the information? Where do you start? What sources do you trust? Especially when you've got to make decisions that affect the fragile life of your child.
We started printing out articles, highlighting, making lists of recommended vitamins, supplements, natural treatments, etc. We also decided to get a dog that our kids had longed for, especially our older daughter. We were trying subtlety to let her know that even thought her sister's needs had taken over, her wants were still important to us.
All of our research was helpful, but seemed to leave us with too many questions to answer. What supplements can you use while on chemotherapy? How can we get her to eat the best food possible when her appetite is so small? How could we incorporate exercise to help her muscles stay loose when she has so little energy?
We had heard about the integrative medical doctors at UW Hospital and knew we needed some help to be able to sort through all our questions. We were confident that our oncologists were helping to eradicate the cancer, yet in addition, we wanted to make sure Grace has and has the best chance to have a great life post-treatment.
We met with Dr. Lucille Marchand. She was able to help us address many of our concerns. She knows what cancer regiments are like and also knows what the alternative health practitioners are saying. She helped us to meld our information to make the plan to help Grace's body function the best it could during treatment.
Grace has not always been willing or receptive to all we want to "do to her". We realized we needed to incorporate her into the thinking and problem solving process. So, she decided that instead of a smoothie with fish oil in it, she would eat more wild fish, more often. She will have her tasteless Vitamin D and pro-biotic in her milk each day.
Slowing the Pace to Help the Healing
We have many more ideas we would like to implement, but we are trying to slow down and go at a pace that is doable for her (good advice, Dr. Marchand). We plan to start acupressure after her chemotherapy. That is done so that that she disconnects the two experiences from one another.
As we stand today, Grace has only two chemotherapy treatment left, and her last CT scan was clear of cancer. We are confident that she will "make it" through this trial that has come her way. She is swimming, playing softball, and starting to love life again after some very tough months. Our concern for her is to help her live a long life with the best possible health. When you are five, have had cancer, and you want to live to be eighty five (or eighty nine as she has requested), you have a lot of repairing and building up to do. We are so thankful that the team of physicians, including Dr. Marchand, that have and will help us strategize to give Grace her best possible live.