September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, something I was only vaguely "aware" of this time last year. My how times have changed.
In fact, just about one year ago, we first met Frieda. Frieda is the name we gave the mass that literally emerged from Austen's tiny body and scared the living daylights out of us. We were very candid with her about what was going on and it was easier for all of us to talk about when we gave the tumor a name.
Frieda sent us running to a local pediatric urgent care around 8 p.m. one night before they hastily directed us to the ER at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. I will never forget the look on the young man's face at the front desk of that urgent care when I answered for the reason we were needing to be seen: "There is a large, bloody mass protruding from my child's vagina." That was my introduction to speaking frankly about things about which I would have normally been more discreet. But, my point was made.
We spent the rest of September making multiple trips to the ER due to some incorrect diagnoses. Each time our anxiety was put to rest with some kind of benign diagnosis, it quickly rose again when it became evident that wasn't the case. It was a stressful month for sure.
It is hard for me to wrap my head around what has happened in the span of this past year. On one hand, I am absolutely joyful and relieved that her treatment is over, it was successful and she is currently happy and healthy again. On the other, as we approach fall, I'm haunted by the reminders of what she went through this time last year.
Austen was diagnosed on Oct. 16, 2017 and had several surgeries and hospital visits between that time and the end of the year. However, this year, she will celebrate a carefree sixth birthday not immediately followed by a trip to the hospital for port placement surgery. Instead of undergoing a hysterectomy and spending Thanksgiving in the hospital, she will enjoy turkey with her cousins. Instead of starting chemotherapy right before Christmas, she will experience all the joy of the season.
So, yes, this September, I am painfully aware that it is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. But now it is my goal to make sure everyone else is aware, too, before they don't have the choice.