Coping With Your Child's Cancer: Liz Scott's Story (page 2)
In 1997, Liz Scott's 1-year-old daughter Alexandra was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer that develops in nerve cells.
When Alex was 4 years old, she opened a lemonade stand to raise money to help "her doctors" find a cure for her cancer. The response was overwhelming, and she raised $2,000 in just a day. As Alex fought cancer over the next 4 years, she raised millions of dollars for pediatric cancer research and clinics across the country. The effort ultimately inspired millions of other kids to open lemonade stands of their own to raise money for the cause.
Although Alex lost her battle with cancer at age 8 in 2004, her family has continued her legacy with Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research. The foundation has raised more than $25 million to fund childhood cancer research.
Below, Liz Scott talks to KidsHealth.org about how she coped with her daughter's illness and what helped her get through the most difficult times.
When did you learn that your daughter had cancer?
It was just a few days before Alex's first birthday. She had been acting different — not sleeping much and seeming uncomfortable during the day. After having just gone through a normal first year with my older son, something didn't seem right to me. We went to our family doctor several times, who told us that Alex's blood tests were normal and everything was fine. But I still had this nagging feeling that something was wrong. After one particularly bad weekend with Alex feeling sick, we called the doctor again and got the doctor on call. His concern prompted us to take Alex to the emergency room.
Once we got to the ER, the doctors found that her reflexes weren't working properly. They didn't say it right away, but they knew something was wrong. After monitoring her, a neurologist thought there might be something growing on her spinal column. They did an MRI and saw that she had a tumor — which was later found to be cancerous — on the spine. Alex had surgery the next day and then started with chemotherapy treatments.
Sounds like you did the right thing to trust your instincts and keep after the doctor.
Absolutely. As a parent, you're used to always worrying about something, and sometimes you're just over-worrying. But if a feeling persists, and your child is not getting better, you should pursue it with the doctor or, if you need to, go to another doctor for a second opinion. You have to trust your gut.
Once the realization about Alex's diagnosis set in, how did you feel?
Well, at first, it was completely overwhelming. I panicked about everything and wondered whether she'd survive, whether she'd make it through the procedure, and how my husband and I would be able to take care of our other kids.
Then, after her first surgery, we got more devastating news: The doctors said that Alex was paralyzed. At that point I thought, "I honestly can't do this." I wanted to crumble and not be there anymore. What helped me fight that feeling was that I remembered volunteering at a telethon years before and seeing a family who had a sick child, and just admiring how strong they were. I thought, "Who do I want to be? Do I want to be the kind of person who faces my fears head-on and tries to be the best person I can be? Or am I going to let this defeat me before it's even started?" I chose the first option. This all sounds very basic, but it's true. And it helped me to be stronger for my family.
During that time, did you draw strength from any other places?
We were very fortunate to have our family members near us, so we had a lot of support. And it helped to know that when we couldn't be with our sons, they were still in good hands.
We also had a lot of friends offer to help out. At first my instinct was to say, "No, I can handle this on my own," but I quickly realized that people actually wanted to help. It made them feel good and useful. So I let them and it really was for the best. Now I always tell parents who are going through this to take help when people offer it. If you accept offers from others to clean the house or run some errands for you, it ultimately lets you have more time to focus on your child.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.
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