In this final installment, Caroline Rider reflects on Charlie's cancer journey, and the impact it has had on the family. Charlie’s cancer has remained in remission for the two years since coming home from his stem cell transplant.
When I go back and read my own words about Charlie's experience, I wonder how we all survived. But survive we did. In fact, I would argue that we thrived.
I can't quite put my finger on it, but when your child gets diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, all of the important things come crisply into focus and the other things recede into the background.
Although it was very hard to learn Charlie had cancer, his experience the first time was good. He only spent 3 1/2 weeks in the hospital and he was a textbook case with very few setbacks. The relapse was much harder. This time, he spent six months in the hospital and had a lot of related problems. I used to wonder, how much more can his body take?
In the early days after diagnosis, we asked our doctors how Charlie got this disease. They said: Bad luck. Well, since that day, we have been very lucky and I try very hard to concentrate on that. Charlie is lucky because acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common form of childhood cancer, so it gets a lot of attention and money. What about the children who have rare forms of cancer that don't get the same funding and attention? More than ever we are dedicated to the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber and all of the fabulous people who work there. We will continue to help raise money for them and work with them to help make cancer history.
Once while watching the Boston Marathon I thought, how cool to be an elite runner, leading the pack. Then I realized that Mike and I are part of an elite group of caregivers who run marathons every day in order to save our children.
Throughout this ordeal people asked us, "How do you do it? How do you keep moving forward and keep everything straight?" We didn't have a choice. Like most parents, we will do anything to save our children. It helps to have a great partner and a support group of friends and family.
Here are some tips for others in our shoes:
We were a family of five who took a turn we didn't expect. We'll never know where the other road would have gone, because we took this one. We met people who enriched our lives in ways we never could have imagined – caregivers, experts, and other families. As a family we love each other more, because we almost lost one of us.
Find out more about support programs and other resources for children and their families at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center:
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 450 Brookline Avenue, Boston, MA 02215 | Call us toll-free: