4 Aug 2015

Before There Was Autism There Was Cancer

Before There Was Autism There Was Cancer

Author: Julie Brusio  /  Categories: Parenting , Julie's Blogs  /  Rate this article:
3.6
Our life changed forever on a stormy day in July of 2006. Debbie was three and Joey was five. It all started when I couldn’t wake Debbie up from a nap. The strange part was that she had stopped taking mid-day naps the year before. Yet, on this particular day I found her fast asleep on the floor in our hallway. As I carefully moved her to her room, she didn’t stir. Several hours later, I unsuccessfully attempted to wake her, and she ended up spending the rest of the afternoon asleep in my bed. Worried, I finally called the doctor, who thought that because the symptoms came on suddenly, Deb might have a virus.

I had a really bad feeling about this. The next day I took Deb to the doctor’s. He thought she might be constipated. I insisted that she wasn’t. After all, this wasn’t my first rodeo with motherhood and I knew what constipation was. But, according to the doctor, the x-ray showed otherwise. We would later find out that what they saw on the x-ray was actually a tumor that had obliterated her left kidney, traveled across her renal vein, and came close to taking out her right kidney. The tumor then traveled up her vena cava and a little piece broke off causing a pulmonary embolism, which had the potential to puncture Debbie’s lungs and so therefore had to be removed right away.

One evening as I was giving Debbie a bath, I noticed that she had a lump in her abdomen. I’m not talking about something tiny. This lump was at least the size of a golf ball. We went back to the doctor the very next day, and his advice this time was to give Debbie mineral oil, even though the Miralax that was prescribed earlier had done its job through and through. We were sent home with directions that if nothing had changed in a week, we were to come back to the office. 

A week later I found myself driving Debbie in pouring rain, from the doctor’s office to the pediatric ER of the county hospital. After giving her an ultrasound, they gave us the diagnosis of Wilms tumor. A Wilms tumor, which attacks the south pole of the kidney, has a very high rate of being cured successfully and treatment is generally easy with minimal side effects. Unfortunately, Debbie had had this tumor for a long time, giving it ample time to grow.

We were sent to Johns Hopkins Hospital where they did a CT scan of her abdomen, and that’s when they found out how extensive the tumor was. Debbie first had surgery to remove the embolism, followed by several months of chemotherapy. We were in and out of the hospital, sometimes staying for weeks. Finally, a few weeks before Thanksgiving 2006, Debbie underwent an eight-hour surgery to remove the tumor and her left kidney. She finished her chemo in the spring of 2007 and in the summer the Make-A-Wish foundation sent us to Disney World. 

Cancer fought hard but Debbie fought back harder and won. She is strong and resilient and I admire her. When I look back and think about this time in our life, I think that Debbie’s cancer was quite possibly harder than anything else in our life, even harder than the autism diagnosis. We could have lost our little girl and had I not been persistent with the doctors, she could have died. On the other hand, cancer taught me how to advocate on Debbie’s behalf and I found out I was more resilient than I thought was ever possible. As much as Debbie fought cancer, so did I and like Debbie, I fought back harder and won.

  xoxoxo ~ Julie



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Julie Brusio

Julie Brusio Julie Brusio

“Autism is full of ups and downs and because of it I have more patience than I used to and can appreciate the "little" things in life.”

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1 comments on article "Before There Was Autism There Was Cancer"

Julia

9/1/2015 5:49 PM

"I think that Debbie’s cancer was quite possibly harder than anything else in our life, even harder than the autism diagnosis."

So how similar is autism to cancer? Why would anyone compare them? Autism is not a tragedy like cancer is. To even mention them together sounds really like the "tragedy-based " view of autism. That's pretty negative.

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