2014 was the year our lives changed forever.
At the time my husband and I had two sons – Xavier (Mouse) was 3 years old and Alexander (Papou) was 1 year old. I was also about four months pregnant.
Everything started on March 2, 2014. Papou had this fever that would not respond to Tylenol or Motrin. In the middle of the night his fever rose to 102 and started trending up. I was very nervous, I called the after hours line, they told me to come in the office in the morning. That morning his Pediatrician ran a number of tests, the results came back negative. They found no reason for his fever. They sent us home and said to alternate between Motrin and Tylenol and put him under a cool bath. If his fever doesn’t stay down, come back.
His fever continued. I called back. She told me to go to the emergency room so that they can run more test to find the cause of the fever. At the time, I did not really think much of our trip to the ER. I knew they would find the problem, give us medication and send us home. I called my husband Vincent and told him I was headed to the emergency room. He needed to meet me there.
At the ER, Papou is really uncomfortable but he’s not crying, he’s just there. The nurses drew his blood for labs. The doctor did a spinal tap for meningitis. My husband arrives and we are just hanging out, joking with the nurse. I’m on the bed stroking Papou. We mention to the nurse, “They need to figure out what’s going on with Papou so they can send us home already.”
We later found out that the test for meningitis came back negative. All lab work came back negative. They did not know what was causing the fever. We were told that a random nurse, who we will forever call our angel in disguise, says to the doctor, “check the white blood count.” And when they checked, his white blood count was astronomically high for a child.
They examined his white blood further and found the answer.
The ER doctor came in and explained all of this to us and said they were waiting for the specialist to come and talk to us. He said, “We're 90 something percent sure that your child has leukemia, and so we have a specialist who's going to come and talk to you.”
Dr. Obzut, the pediatric oncologist comes in and explains, “It looks like your son may have leukemia. We will need to do a biopsy to confirm. If it is leukemia, it is treatable. Yada yada yada yada” I say, “Leukemia, isn’t that a cancer?” She says, “Yes.” I asked in shock, “Kids get cancer?” She said, “Yes.”
And she’s talking, I’m no longer listening. At that moment, I look at my son and see a small black casket, with a bald head child inside of it.
And then I came back to reality.
She finishes speaking and leaves. I say to Vincent, “What… what do you think?” He says, “It’s treatable. We’re gonna be good.”
And with that, we moved forward.
We were immediately admitted. The next day we met the other members of the oncology team. They explained some things to us. Took Papou to the OR. He was then transferred to ICU. He stayed there for a couple of days. We were then transferred to the oncology floor. We were told to expect to be there for about a month.
This whole time my sister kept Mouse for us. He had no idea what was going on. And Papou was very lonely at the hospital, even though I was with him.
It was at that moment, my husband and I decided we were going to go through this journey as a family. My husband brought Mouse to the hospital and we made the hospital stay a family thing. It was one of the best decisions we made.
Once Mouse started staying at the hospital with Papou, Papou’s whole demeanor changed. Everything changed.
We know the chemo did its job, but there’s just something about the spirit. Papou was alive when his brother was near, and they played together, sang together, they danced together, they fought together, and the doctor would come in and say, “Papou doesn’t even look like a kid who is going through treatment.”
From that moment on, Mouse was always with Papou. Every time he’s in the hospital, every treatment, every doctor visit, it was Papou and Mouse.
One night when Papou was admitted, I needed to go to the kitchen on the floor. Some patients had their door open. As I walked by I realized sooo many kids were alone. There were even babies on the floor with no one with them in the room. It just broke my heart to see that those kids were alone and here we were a full room and Papou had Mouse. That’s when it hit me, every kid on this floor needs someone like Mouse with them.
And that was the beginning of Papou’s Mouse.
In our three and a half year journey of our cancer treatments, it became clear the blessing it was to have each other and for Papou to have Mouse. Then we met a childhood cancer family in October of 2018. We befriended them and realized how much we wanted to do for that family. We realized it wasn’t just about the child that was going through cancer, it was about the whole family. We fell in love with the whole family.
When that cancer warrior was admitted to the hospital for a whole month, we dedicated everything to being with them, from beginning to end. And that is when it became clear that it wasn’t just about the child. It was about the whole childhood cancer family. Everybody needed a Mouse in their life. The Myrthil Family became the “Mouse” for that family. So that is how Papou’s Mouse evolved.