The last round!
Mason was scheduled to start his last round of chemo on April 21, 2015. The day before, a home health care nurse came out as usual, drew his blood, and then sent it off to the labs. Mason’s counts have to be at a certain level in order to start chemo. We were told his bone marrow would get weaker and weaker with every round of chemo that hit his body, therefore, his counts would take longer to recover. But, with the previous rounds, his counts had always recovered by the time chemo was scheduled to begin. Unfortunately, that was not the case for this round. I had already packed all of our bags by the time I got the call from Mason’s oncologist late Monday night on April 20th. Mason’s counts were too low to start chemo. He would need at least another week to recover. Chemo was rescheduled to start on April 28th pending labs taken the day before. We were devastated. We were physically, mentally, and emotionally ready to get this last round of chemo over with. We were ready to be done.
Although we were devastated, we looked on the bright side and were very thankful to have an additional week at home. This 4 week span was the longest amount of time we had been home since last October, 2014.
It also allowed us time to have a sleep study done that was requested by Mason’s cardiologist. Mason still had high pressure in his left lung and his cardiologist did not think it was tied to his small VSD (hole in his heart). He ordered a sleep study to see if there was any blockage in his airways that could be causing the pressure in his lung. Mason was such a trooper while getting a million wires hooked onto his head and tubes in his nose and mouth!
The results from his sleep study came back a few weeks later showing no blockage in his airways. He is now being referred to a pulmonologist to further explore this issue. That appointment is scheduled for September. We are praying this specialist will be able to give us some answers as to why he has high pressure in his left lung.
On Tuesday, April 28th, 2015, Mason began his last round of chemo!
He was all smiles during the day but then had some complications at night. Off and on throughout the night, his oxygen saturation dipped pretty low. An alarm would go off and the nurse would come in and re-position him in an attempt to get his sats up. Unfortunately this kept happening, and the doctor had to be called around 3 am. She decided he needed to be put on oxygen and ordered a chest x-ray to make sure his chest was clear.
Thankfully the x-ray showed that everything was clear. Night after night his oxygen saturation’s dipped and he was put on oxygen. We were only getting about 4 hours of sleep each night and it was exhausting. We were very worried that we’d be kept in the hospital longer than the 7 planned days of receiving chemo. Mason needed to show that he could breathe on his own for several nights in a row for them to let us go home.
Even though we were exhausted and feared staying in the hospital longer than planned, we decided to make the most out of our final stay. Riley Hospital hosted a cancer center prom and it was a blast! Mason got dressed up and we all enjoyed great food, desserts, games, face painting, and music. We were able to meet some other families and Mason did plenty of dancing!
Riley went all out for this event and I’m so thankful for a hospital who goes to such great lengths to bring joy to these kids. The staff at this hospital are amazing. We will truly miss all of the great people who have cared for Mason for the past 7 months.
After a rough start to this last round, things started to turn around. Mason was finally breathing on his own at night, without his oxygen levels dipping too low. The day had finally come for Mason’s last bag of chemo to be hooked up. We celebrated by playing in the play room with some friends.
Late evening on May 5th, 2015, after his last chemo bag was empty, we left the oncology floor for the very last time with Mason as a patient. We then came home to a wonderful “yippee, no more chemo for me” surprise from my sister.
It felt so great to be home! Mason recovered from this round well. He only had to go back to the hospital once, for a platelet transfusion. Daddy came to play with him and helped pass the time.
To finish out the round, we returned to his oncologist and prayed for good numbers so his central line could be scheduled for removal. The doctors wanted this central line out as badly as we did since it’s a high risk for infections. Thankfully Mason’s numbers had recovered and surgery was scheduled two weeks later. Although his oncologist wanted us to continue to keep him in a bubble for the next two weeks with his central line in, she did give us the okay to take him out a little bit with lots of hand washing and hand sanitizer. Therefore, we went out to dinner and had our first family outing in 7 months! It was such a joyous occasion and freeing feeling.
A few weeks later, Mason went in to have his central line removed.
Even though this surgery was outpatient, we were very nervous about it. Mason had a really hard time when they put his central line in. He had several complications afterwards and it took hours before they could get him to breathe on his own again. It was so hard to see the nurse carry him away when I had no idea what state he’d be in when we saw him again. Of course Mason was so tough and was all smiles throughout the very long morning of meeting with nurses, doctors, anesthesiologists, surgeons, etc. and not having had anything to eat or drink since the night before.
The surgery went incredibly smooth and we were so thankful for God’s protection over Mason. The surgery took less time than expected and Mason was able to breathe on his own immediately afterwards.
His central line was out and I felt like a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders. It was a relief that I hadn’t felt in 7 months. I finally felt like the worst was behind us. In no way is this journey over, but this chapter, Lord willing the worst chapter of this cancer journey, is closed.
Mason will see his oncologist once a month for the next year for a blood draw and check up. After a year, his appointments will start to space out. After 5 years of being in remission, he will be considered “cured” and a “survivor”. At that point, he’ll only need to see his oncologist once a year for check ups, and then he’ll start going to the Survivor’s Clinic once a year for check ups as well.