Treatment Comes With a Price
This past Monday, Sean went in to have a CT scan and cervical spine x-rays in order for Dr. Greenfield (his neurosurgeon) to assess whether or not our little superhero would be allowed to play football this year. There has been a lot of discussion about this with his team of doctors, and as you might imagine, after four brain surgeries, the pediatrician defers to Dr. G when it comes to clearing Sean to play sports! He has been out on the field practicing a little since the season started August 1st, but when it came time for any contact drills, he has been standing on the sidelines watching, anxiously waiting for an answer from the doctors.
Well yesterday morning, Sept. 1st....the first day of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month....we finally got the answer from Dr. Greenfield, and unfortunately it was not what we had hoped to hear. His review of Sean's scans indicated that there are unequivocally unfused areas between the bone plate (the part of his skull that had to be removed to perform surgery) and skull that are likely the result of radiation affecting bone healing. Basically, this means that because of the radiation treatment he received last year following surgery, the bones in his skull have not fully grown back together and healed like they should. The titanium struts they put in during surgery makes it safe and stable for normal life, but "it just isn't safe for his head to get struck" - so sadly that means no more football for our little warrior. Radiation, as targeted as they try to make it, is not only going to kill cancer cells, but it's going to kill healthy brain cells and apparently bone cells as well.
Anyone who knows Sean knows how much he LOVES playing football!! It was breaking my heart yesterday to know that we were going to have to take this away from him....that this tumor was going to take this away from him. Childhood cancer takes so much from so many brave, amazing kids everyday. From all of them, it steals their childhood and their innocence. For some it may take away limbs, eyesight, hearing, or fertility. For others it might inflict heart damage or impair cognitive function, balance, the ability to speak. The list goes on and on, and for far too many, it ends up taking their life. But it can also steal dreams from those that survive, and unfortunately that is what happened to our little warrior this week. Cancer treatment almost always comes with a price, and this was his. His dream of playing football with his team again, his dream of winning a high school state championship one day, of maybe even playing in college some day, and every young football player's pipe dream of making it to the NFL....it was all taken away.😥
We let Sean enjoy the day yesterday, a day that of course involved football! We took him and a friend (the quarterback on his team) to the Rutgers game. Thank goodness it was a nice, sunny day so I could hide behind my sunglasses. The tears kept falling every time I heard Sean and his friend talking about their season, their team, their plans for the games they had ahead, and every time I thought about how I would never get the chance to watch him play again. On top of that, all I could think about as I sat next to him at the game was that we would have to break his heart when we got home.
When we sat him down to give him the news last night, he was at first just so excited that we had finally heard back! He had been beyond anxious for news all week, and he has been waiting so long to play again!! He crossed his fingers and kept whispering "please don't let it be bad, please don't let it be bad..." (UGH!!), and as we started to talk, just like that, we watched that beautiful face go from so excited to crushed. Such a hard conversation to have! But I am beyond proud of how he handled it though, with so much strength, and quite honestly with fewer tears than I did. As sad/mad as he was at the news, he was also so mature - beyond his years - and understood and accepted the reasons why, that after all he's been through his bones have just not healed.
He woke up today, still hurting and sad, and I think he will be for a while. And that's ok...this is a big loss for him. It was so hard to hear him telling one of his friends this morning that he can't play - so much hurt in his voice. But I know he will find his strength and he will pick-up his chin, and no matter what I know he will always be a part of this team, but it's going to be a tough season for him. Standing on the sidelines last year, he thought he would be back again this year, so it helped ease the pain of not being able to play. That won't be the case this time. We are so grateful to everyone who prayed and sent good vibes to Sean this week, and to everyone that checked in or reached out to ask if we had heard anything yet. We are so blessed to have so much support!! I will tell you that we are all feeling sad today that it didn't turn out the way we had hoped, but to quote Sean's beloved Dr. Greenfield "he is such a special kid that he will find another way to impact the world aside from tackle football. I am sure of this." Knowing Sean and his spirit, I am sure of this too!! #TEAMSean #TogetherEveryoneAchievesMiracles