It was November 18, 2017. A day like any other, or so I had hoped. Only that the morning had already started out in a peculiar way.
It was the first day of the beginning of Thanksgiving break for Anthony during his fourth grade year of elementary. We had planned to enjoy that Saturday as usual. Only that when he woke up, he sat up in bed and had projectile vomiting. For those of you that are not in the medical field, this is quite alarming as stomach contents are suddenly and forcefully propelled several feet away from you. It was noticeably different than the usual vomiting he would have had as result of an illness. Several red flags came to mind immediately: he vomited shortly after waking up without having had anything to eat or drink, the vomiting was forceful, he had not recently been around anyone that had been sick and most alarming was that he had no other accompanying symptoms like fever, nausea, abdominal pain or anything else that would be present had it been a stomach flu virus of some sort. He only had one episode of vomiting that morning. Its almost as if it had never even occurred. The rest of the day went on as usual.
The following morning, the exact same scenario occurred all over again. The next two days that followed it was as if nothing had ever taken place in the days that had preceded. The vomiting had went away and no other signs or symptoms surfaced. Until the vomiting came back on that 5th day. I took him to see his pediatrician, who was a new doctor to him to him at the time in which he had never seen, and he diagnosed him with gastroenteritis, better known as the “stomach flu” but also suggested perhaps he was stressed. Neither of the two could possibly apply, Anthony had no symptoms of the actual flu and if you know him personally or have come to learn about him through his journey, you’ll know stress has never been a factor. As a concerned mother and applying my critical thinking skills as a nurse, I had asked the doctor if he could order lab tests or imaging studies but he was reluctant at that time “because there are no alarming symptoms.” Well, vomiting alone without any other symptoms is very concerning!
Anthony returned to school after Thanksgiving break on November 27, 2017. He had felt well that morning to go to school and again no other symptoms had developed. If anything we would have hope that at that point whatever virus that had possibly came and inflicted Anthony with this peculiar vomiting, as the doctor suggested, would have cleared his body. Unfortunately that was not the case and the monster that we were actually dealing with was much larger than we could have ever imagined.
Over the course of 12 days Anthony had intermittent episodes of vomiting. His dad and I also started to notice he was losing weight rapidly as witnessed with his shirts fitting quite loosely and his collar bone starting to protrude. Anthony has always been slender, so his weight loss was quickly noticeable in that short time frame. His dad and I knew it had to be something more than just a typical “flu.”
The night prior to taking Anthony in to the hospital his dad had informed me that Anthony had an episode of vomiting about an hour after dinner. This is what would now be the twelfth day. Suddenly my anxiety escalated and what was just a mother’s intuition of knowing something more than just vomiting was occurring with my son, turned to my critical thinking skills of a nurse. It was the night of November 29, 2017 that I lay in my bed with my eyes glued to my computer monitor and my heart racing. Despite how many times I have told my family and friends to not google their symptoms on the internet, because chances are it will be false information or a worse case scenario of what may actually be occurring, I did just that. I kept googling “acute onset of vomiting upon wakening with no other symptoms” and “intermittent episodes of vomiting in a child with no other symptoms.” Both of which resulted in possibly being brain related and worst case scenario a brain tumor.
That would be the first of many nights that I would not sleep. That night I asked him to bring him over in the morning prior to taking him to school so that I could assess him in person. That next morning I had already sent out a group text to my fellow nurse coworkers letting them know that I would be calling out sick from work that day and proceeded to let them know what had been occurring with Anthony. They concurred that the best thing would be to have him evaluated in the Emergency Room.
The next set of publications serve as a memoir of the timeline of events that we have lived and our journey through cancer from my perspective, as a mother and nurse.