By Terry and Emily Fox
Did you know September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month?
Did you know that the childhood cancer ribbon color is Gold?
Did you know that 15,780 children in the US will be diagnosed
with one of the 12 forms of childhood cancer this year?
Neither did I. Until my child was one. I’m Emily, Patrick’s mom.
When We First Knew
Halloween 2013 was the last day our family was “normal.” We felt something odd was happening with our 5-year old son. He seemed to be getting skinny. He didn’t want eat, and every meal was a battle. He had bruises on his legs. All of which we were able to rationalize away. What kid doesn’t argue at dinner time? He could be having a growth spurt, etc. We knew when he didn’t feel good enough to go trick or treating, it was time to take him to the doctor.
My husband, Terry, took Patrick to the doctor the next day. The doctor was concerned and did an x-ray that showed something might be wrong with his heart. They sent us to Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in Denver to see a cardiologist. After a CAT scan, the Emergency Room doctor was the first to tell us something was terribly wrong, but not with Patrick’s heart. In a matter of moments everything changed. It was then that we were told a monster had come to live with us. Cancer. T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). We learned he would have to start chemotherapy that night. The image on the initial x-ray was a tumor in his chest that had collapsed one of his lungs and almost half of the other.
It has been over 2 ½ years since that day. In that time, Patrick had a port surgically placed in his chest, spent weeks in the hospital and missed almost an entire year of school. For a while we traveled Denver every week for out patient IV chemotherapy. Now we go monthly for his IV chemo and routine lumbar punctures. Patrick takes oral chemo pills every day and steroids for one week every month. Our Patrick, and our whole family, have gone through so much since his diagnosis. Chemo is a relentless necessity.
How Alternative Medicine Has Helped
I’m Terry. As Patrick’s Dad and a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Practitioner, I thought I had a handle on helping him battle his leukemia. I knew what I had to offer my son wouldn’t be a cure, but it would help ease his journey through chemotherapy. And luckily, our Oncologist was very open to working with me.
I began consulting TCM teachers, Qi Gong Masters, Herbalists, Chiropractors, Essential Oil Experts, Hypnotists, and Naturopaths. I combed through articles and books. I even researched subjects like CBD oil. Eventually, I decided to start my child on what I knew best — Chinese Herbs and Acupuncture.
However, Patrick had a different course in mind. Acupuncture wasn’t comfortable for him. And Chinese Herbs can taste like dirty socks at any age. So, after several fights, it finally hit me that my son didn’t want another doctor. He simply wanted me to be his Dad.
Though I had powerful tools for healing, I had to swallow my fear and professional pride. I was forced to drop my practitioner hat and allow my son the freedom to decide what “alternative” medicines he was willing to use.
Patrick agreed to essential oils used aromatically and topically. For his chemo related neuropathy, he allowed me to do acupressure, qi gong, and massage therapy. Occasionally, I could get him to take Chinese Herbs. But not often. His taste buds aren’t that compliant.
We have eight more months of chemo before we’re done. It’s been a grueling journey. In the past three years, the best medicine appears to be a combination of gratitude, laughter, and love. There are never enough prayers. There is never enough laughter. We can never give too many hugs.
Emily Fox is a Licensed Social Worker at Banner Health, loving mother, and pug snuggler.
Retraction: In the print version of September/October issue of Regenerate Magazine, I made an assumption and incorrectly referred to acupuncturist Terry Fox as Dr. Terry Fox.