As a nurse and a mom of a cancer fighter, I have been asked many times over by concerned parents, how I knew something was wrong with my daughter and how would they ever know if their child had cancer. There are so many answers to this last question. Frankly there are probably as many answers as there are children and different forms of pediatric cancer. Unfortunately the only true answer I can give is, “Go with your gut.” If I told you I knew right away my child had leukemia as soon as I saw her bruising, I would be lying. I did know however that something was horribly wrong and I needed to get her to the pediatrician. Mother’s Instinct may not come with a medical degree but it usually has the ability to get you moving to one real quick!
I was fortunate that my kids’ pediatrician did know what was probably going on with Julia and told me to go right to the Emergency Department of the University Hospital since he would be sending us there from his office anyway. I will always treasure that advice and appreciate that he sent us where we would get the care she needed though he did not have privelages at that hospital and would have to give up his care of her. The blood work was done and the diagnosis was made within hours and by the next morning our heads were still spinning, but our baby was in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in respiratory distress and chemo was begun that day. This is, of course, many stories for many other days, but I know that getting her to the hospital when we did made all the difference in her survival … at least at that point in the battle.
There are so many signs and symptoms of cancer that can mimic so many other illnesses in childhood, but I am going to list several here just for your own information. If your child suffers from any or several of these and you cannot get your doctor to give you a diagnosis it may be time to seek a second opinon.
I always tell parents, both at work and “in real life”, to always trust their own instincts and they will never go wrong. Most of you will never need this advice, but for those that do, push your doctors for answers and if you don’t get them then move on to another doctor. You may not know the medical jargon but you know your child.