Milla got sick in October 2009 when she was two years and 10 months old.
Her little brother was then seven months old. We visited the doctor for a common cold and ear infection, and the doctor noticed that Milla was very pale. They took a blood sample and we received a request for more specific tests for the same evening. Our whole family went there and we hoped to return back home for the night. After the more specific tests, we were told that they were strongly suspecting leukemia and moving Milla immediately to the Kuopio University Hospital by an ambulance. The whole situation felt unreal and we were so worried when we started to travel toward Kuopio around 11pm. Mom went in the ambulance with Milla, and dad and little brother traveled in our own car.
I can remember the arrival to Kuopio so vividly. Immediately after Milla was taken out of the ambulance, an awful commotion started around her. The room was full of doctors, nurses, machines, cords, blood samples. In the middle of all of that, there was our little girl, and the doctor who told us: “She has blood cancer.”
Later, we were transferred to the unit. When the elevator doors opened, and the text in the door said: “Children’s blood and cancer disorders unit 2403”, I thought that this could not be true – there must have been a mistake. But there was no mistake, but it was the beginning of a battle that lasted two and a half years. The diagnosis was leukemia (ALL).
Milla’s treatment proceeded pretty well according to the plan. During the first year the treatment was often given in Kuopio where we spent many weeks at first. Then, the treatments became more infrequent and we were able to receive part of them at Jyväskylä. We lived one moment at a time, we never knew when we would need to return to the hospital again. If the thermometer showed 38, we had to leave immediately to the hospital to get treatment for the fever, no matter where we were or what other plans we may have had. Many times, we left for the hospital in the middle of the night. We also learned that those visits always lasted at least five days, sometimes even two weeks, because of the length of the antibiotics treatment. Because of the risk of infections, Milla’s life was pretty isolated. If the blood values were especially good, sometimes Milla was able to come with us to the grocery store. Otherwise, life was restricted to home and hospital.
Milla’s examination for the end of the treatment was in the spring of 2012. We got through those with a clean bill of health. Now, Milla is an optimistic second-grader. :)
We never told Milla how serious her illness was. It is not until recently that she understands what leukemia means. We have tried to answer honestly to Milla’s questions, yet, in a way that would not elicit fear. We have also told her that this kind of sickness is not given to just anyone but to especially strong ones, and she should be very proud of her battle because not every battle ends up as well.
Living with your own child’s illness is extremely rough. Seeing all that pain and suffering from so close, the presence of constant uncertainty and fear of losing her. The feeling of powerlessness. It has also been tough to see so many friends in the hospital to pass away. The unfairness of life is sad.
Our life is divided in two: life before Milla’s cancer and life after that. It will always be with us, the small fear continues being there. There’s no going back the old carefree life. You never know what comes tomorrow, but today everything is ok for us!