Cancer is a Family Affair
Full Name: Carla Belsher
In Honor of: Sydney Belsher
Type of Cancer: Infantile Leukemia (ALL)
On April 26, 2014 our happy little family of 5 entered a world that you can never fully recover from. My husband and I have 3 beautiful girls (who are currently ages 9, 6.5 and 4.5) and on that date in April we found out that our youngest daughter, Sydney, was diagnosed with Infantile Leukemia. We went from family pictures and a T-ball game that morning, to praying our daughter would survive the night in the ICU. We were told that if she didn’t stroke out over night and we were actually able to start chemo, then she likely had a 35-40% chance of surviving until she was 5years old. We were crushed. Everything we knew about the world was clouded by the new glasses we were given in which to view it. We spent the next year mostly inpatient watching our baby get poisoned with chemo and battle every nasty side effect known to man. Chronic vomiting, diarrhea, mouth sores, weight loss, etc. You name it, she suffered from it. We learned how to maintain feeding tubes, IV antibiotics, and port dressings. She learned how to walk by pushing her IV pole around the unit. She knew exactly how to flush her port and what order the saline and heparin went in by 2yrs old. And you know what, she smiled. All. The. Time. She taught us how to be grateful for the small victories and the moments where she felt okay. She truly is our little hero. Our #SuperSydney. About 18 months into treatment she started getting sicker again and frail and battling horrendous GI side effects that lead us to make the difficult decision to uproot our family and move to Cincinnati so she could be seen by their world reknown Oncology, Gastroenterology, and Immunology departments. They saved her life and we are forever grateful for that. In June 2016, she finally finished chemo and was healthy enough for us to move back home to Virginia and begin life again…. post cancer. And what no one tells you is that cancer doesn’t end when chemo ends. It is then that we had to start picking up the pieces of our life and trying to find our new normal. Our older two girls had practically been abandoned and neglected by us for two years. We were so grateful that my parents were able to step in and essentially raise them during that time, but that doesn’t come without emotional scars. In the last couple years, we have been fighting a different kind of battle and this time with our older two…. one full of behavioral issues, low self esteem, rebuilding attachment, integrating Sydney back into the sibling unit, heartbreak, anger, jealousy. It’s been exhausting yet we are one of the lucky ones who was able to watch our child survive and triumph and therefore we are LUCKY to be facing these new battles. Although, if I’m being honest, we don’t always feel so lucky. Rebuilding your family doesn’t come with a medical roadmap like cancer does. Sometimes I wish it did….
Having followed your journey, I can only say that you are an amazing family. Your strength and courage while facing a nightmare teaches all of us to value what is most important in life – good health and family. May the sun continue to shine for you. Thank you again for sharing the reality of what it’s like to have a child with cancer, as well as the impact on the entire family.