Sophie Cameron was named after her maternal Great Grandma Sophie Proctor. None of the other grandchildren dared to use the name as our Grandmother was so revered by our mothers and tragically died before we were born. Grandma Sophie died when she was 43. She died of leukemia.
Sophie Cameron had just turned one year old and her Mom and Dad had taken her to the Pediatrician for her "well-baby" check up. Sophie had numerous ear infections during her first year of life so frequent trips to the Dr. and antibiotics were common to her. On this day however the pediatrician gave her a thorough exam and quietly tapped her tummy feeling the firmness of her internal organs as they were packed with white blood cells. He explained that she was seriously ill. The doctor said calmly " You need to take her over to Cottage Hospital's Pediatric Unit" and when we asked when he said "right now!"
With in two hours time we had seen the pediatric intensivist and had an initial diagnosis of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). The shock of the situation was almost too much for Sophie's Mom and Dad. How could our baby have cancer? Was it hereditary? We were told that adult leukemia in our family history and childhood leukemia are not related. That did not make a difference for us. The irony was bitter.
Our family owes an unimaginable debt to the professional team at Cottage Hospital. Dr Hodder and the nurses on the pediatric floor provided such loving care. They became our teachers and our support system. The other families taught us so much; we learned to take each day for what good was in it and not to worry about what may or may not happen tomorrow. The hardest part was watching other parents lose their children to this horrible cancer. Survivors guilt is awful, but a very real part of this experience.
Over the course of the next 2 1/2 years Sophie endured several spinal taps, countless intravenous chemotherapy appointments and many long hospital stays. She was a trooper; we tried our best to keep her world and that of her sisters as normal as possible. Our whole life seemed to revolve around Sophie's care. At times the hospital stays were too much and the details of our normal daily life were lost, like paying bills on time or going grocery shopping. We had the money, just not the time or energy to keep it all together. There were times when all we could handle was making sure we administered 7-8 different medications she had to take at home.
When I reflect on her course of treatment I remember feeling frightened, overwhelmed and sometimes that all aspects of our daily life were out of our control. We did the best we could. I can only imagine how the support and financial assistance that the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation provides would have helped us; it will certainly meet a critical need. In addition to the practical help, those families who are assisted will take great comfort in knowing that concerned citizens in our community do truly care and are partners with them through a very stressful time.
Sophie is now a 4 1/2-year-old preschooler. Happy, playful and healthy. She has routine blood tests to confirm her remission. And when she turns 6 and all of her follow-up tests are normal she will be deemed "cured" and "cancer free".