The Day My Heart Stopped

Kayla and me July 4th, 2003

I expected to wake up on July 3, 2010, like I normally did, which included a daily routine of anything from dirty dishes to playing referee between my girls.  However, at 7:30 a.m. that morning, I received a phone call from Kayla’s doctor….“Mrs. Chandler.  We just received Kayla’s CBC results from yesterday’s blood draw.  She is very anemic and you need to get her to an emergency room immediately.  She will be receiving a blood transfusion.”  I thought to myself, “Did she say a blood transfusion?”  At that moment, I convinced myself that everything would be just fine…… thinking to myself…..I have had a history of anemia, as well as, my mother.  Kayla’s anemia just happens to be a little worse.  A blood transfusion is no big deal.  She will be fine…..So I thought……I woke Kayla up and told her what the doctor said.  Her biggest fear was the fact that she would receive an I.V.  Kayla did not like needles.  But, I assured her that everything would be okay.  We entered the emergency room with the orders from her doctor in hand.  They immediately took us back to a room and began to triage, draw blood and start a dreaded I.V.  After many tests, she was admitted to a room to begin her first of many blood transfusions.  At the same time, we were told that she would remain at the hospital over night.  Receiving blood transfusions can take hours.  Kayla ultimately had 3 while she was in the first hospital…..It was the first of many blood transfusions in her future…..I lost count after 10…..The first doctor was so pleasant, easy-going and had a great sense of humor.  She seemed so optimistic that Kayla would be okay after a few blood transfusions.  But, when the doctor left the room and returned a few minutes later, her look and demeanor changed; she had seen something in Kayla’s CBC report that was not good.  As the doctor tried to continue with her humor and wit, the conversation then became serious.  The doctor said, “Kayla.  Your blood counts just don’t look good and we need to complete some other tests.  I don’t want to scare you, but, we will be testing your blood for cancer, as well.”  Cancer?  Did she really just say, “cancer?”  Kayla and I looked at each other in disbelief and confusion.  But, I assured my daughter that everything would be okay; but, in my heart, I knew that something was wrong….terribly wrong.  As I sat along side of her hospital bed, I received a phone call from her primary care doctor which happens to be my doctor, as well.  “Amber.  How are you?”  “I’m okay,”  I said.  “Why?” he asked.  “Well, the doctor said that Kayla will have a few blood transfusions and then she should start feeling better.”  I didn’t mention that we had already been told about further testing for cancer.  I did not want to hear my voice say the word, “cancer.”  He said, “Amber.  This is much more than a few blood transfusions.  We think she may have acute myeloid leukemia.” I was speechless.  He asked, “Is she sitting next to you?”  “Yes,” I replied.  He knew that I could not say much at that moment.  Kayla was just a few inches away from me oblivious to the conversation I was having with her doctor.  I didn’t want to startle her with this information.  So, I just held everything inside and acted like nothing was wrong……Maybe all of the doctors are wrong.  People are misdiagnosed all the time.  This cannot be happening to my daughter.  Cancer only happens to other people.  It is so rare for a child to have it.  The doctors have to be wrong……..A few minutes later, we received a visit from another doctor.  She had a sweet disposition, very personable, and spoke with a slight German accent……..This doctor will assure us that all of the blood tests were incorrect and Kayla would be fine.  I’m sure she will clear everything up and send us home today……As she introduced herself and sat down at Kayla’s bed side, she explained that she was an oncologist.  She had reviewed Kayla’s blood results and said that it “probably” was……cancer.  Probably?  Kayla and I held hands and cried as we listened to this doctor try to explain her “probable” diagnosis.  “Kayla.  You are going to be transferred to a children’s hospital in Atlanta via ambulance.  They will continue to run tests on you and can confirm a cancer diagnosis.”  Once the doctor left the room, we were still in such disbelief and shock; we didn’t say much and tried to ignore what was really going on by staring at the t.v.  Later, Kayla began feeling so much better after her first blood transfusion, she was joking and laughing……If she had cancer, she would not be joking and laughing.  The doctors are still just wrong……A nurse asked me to step into the hallway to complete some paperwork.  She asked, “Are you okay?”  I looked at her with complete confusion and said, “I am fine.”  Still in such deep denial I thought, “Why is this nurse asking me how I am doing?  Kayla is the one that is sick and she needs the care and attention….not me.  She needs to hurry up and get these blood transfusions done so we can go home.”  I now realize that she knew something that I didn’t want to accept…..something that no parent wants to face.  But, my confirmation was still a few hours away.  My mother arrived at the hospital and stayed with Kayla so I could go home and get a change of clothes and some things that she needed.  As I walked into the completely empty house, I dropped to my knees at the side of my bed and I prayed to God that this was not true, “Dear God, please don’t let this be true.  Kayla can’t have cancer.  Please let the doctors be wrong.  If it is cancer, give it to me…..please God!!  She is just 17-years-old!  Her little sisters need her……..I need her…….please God!”  As I wiped away my tears, I picked myself up and gathered our personal belongings and headed back to the hospital.  Some of Kayla’s friends had arrived for a visit.  Everyone was laughing and joking with her…….I just know the doctors are wrong.  Look at her; she looks happy and better than she has in several weeks.  The next day, July 4, 2010, Kayla was transferred to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta – Egleston.  She was admitted into the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorder Center at Egleston which, also, became our home for the next 2 1/2 months.  Dr. Katherine Hill, Kayla’s favorite doctor, confirmed what we did not want to hear or believe…..”Kayla has acute myeloid leukemia.”  My heart stopped that day.  I had no idea what this journey with cancer was going to be like.  And, now that I have experienced it, the thought of one more child being diagnosed with cancer, simply rips my heart out.  Right now, and just 20 miles away from here at Egleston Hospital, there are kids enduring cancer treatment; some will heal….some will not.  And, somewhere in the world today, another mom’s heart stopped when she heard the words, “Your child has cancer.

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About MomMinus1

Welcome to my blog, momminus1 (mom minus one). I am a mother of three beautiful girls, Kayla 17, Allison 13 and Ashley 5. One of my daughters recently became an angel; Kayla passed away on September 22, 2010 due to complications from AML leukemia. She was diagnosed on July 3, 2010. She endured harsh chemotherapy treatments, hair loss, rare and painful skin disorders, horrible stomach infections, weakness, loss of appetite, depression, anxiety and fear. From the time she was diagnosed until the day she died it was just 81 days..... A short, but, horrific battle with cancer. I am always asked, "How are you doing? What can I do for you? How are your two girls doing?" At times, these are tough questions to answer. And, I express myself best when I write. Writing is so helpful and therapeutic for me. Maybe I can answer these questions for those that are concerned about us. Maybe I can help another mom that might wake up tomorrow and find out that their child is diagnosed with cancer. Maybe there is a mom somewhere, like me, that just lost a child to cancer and is searching the web for answers. She might be thinking, "Is there anyone out there that understands what I'm going through?" I understand. I am grieving. I am in pain. I have a big piece of my heart that is now gone.....I would love your feedback about my blog, too. Thanks for reading!
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15 Responses to The Day My Heart Stopped

  1. Darlene Sanner says:

    Praying for you and all of us Moms who have to face this unthinkable, unbearable life that we must live day after day. It’s ripping my heart out day after day that I only had 13 months with my Alexa, and then I have to remember, It’s only temporary, and this suffering and pain WILL end. The bad days are really bad and the “good” days feel so disconnected and fake. But I like you have to live for my other child, and the real reality of this is that we are not unfortunate, we are very fortunate and blessed to have been given our Angels, who we have forever, who we will see again. The challenge for me is to try to put the pain of the treatments, the suffering, the loss of control of what I could have done for My Baby Girl aside and know she is well now. I want to thank you for being there for me. We barely know each other and you have been there to respond to me and talk to me whenever I needed someone who truly understood me. It’s crazy the relationships that come of our beautiful Girls. I know they are in Heaven, I know they are together as well because I think they brought us into contact with each other. I pray that the pain we both feel will somehow, some miraculous way lighten one day. And what I mean by that is, maybe we can stop remembering the chaotic nights and days, the very painful ones that our girls had to experience, and maybe just feel more of those beautiful days with them. It is certain we will never forget the “days our hearts stopped” until we hold our babies again. Just know I am here if you need me, although it may be through and email or a phone call if needed, I will be here to listen and understand… Darlene Sanner

  2. Susan B says:

    Amber, you wrote well. I felt your fear, disbelief and sinking heart. Your keyboard was wet as you wrote of the experience? Sometimes I feel better after writing, sometimes I don’t and it’s twelve years since my little guy died.
    It is difficult to know intimately of the suffering that is happening at this moment in children’s hospitals across the world… the stopping of hearts.

  3. Jennifer says:

    Amber, as always I am grieving with you. It stirs anger in my heart as I want to say this is not fair!!! I am so sorry your precious Kayla had to endure this. I will continue to pray for you and your sweet family as you try to heal. Nothing I say can take your pain away I just want you to know that I appreciate your willingness to share your heart with us.

  4. Marianne Volpert says:

    A friend of mine once wrote to me, “You are being blessed by every beneficent thought of any of your brothers anywhere.”

  5. judy says:

    i am sitting here remembering those days and months with tears in my eyes. i remember when your mom called me and told me what the doctor said. i didnt believe god would let her die, i prayed so hard. i know He knows best but i still wonder why she had to go so young. i love you all and know we will see her again one day!

  6. Cindy says:

    What a blessing to all of us that Kayla was healed the moment she stepped foot into heaven. What a comfort to know that as you’ve said before, we all believe Granny was there waiting for her when she got there.

  7. Cyndi Amerson says:

    Amber, I am always thinking of you and Kayla. The picture of you and her on the 4th of July is beautiful, you can see the love all around it. I know your love reaches her every day and touches her and she sends hers back down in return!

  8. Debbie F says:

    Amber you blogs bring such a blessing to others – you write of real fear, shock, anger, yet love for a daughter that has taught all of us to live each day loving those around us. Thank you for your honesty and letting us grieve, cry and laugh with you. Love you lady!

  9. Katie says:

    I wanted to say my cousin reads alot of blogs and she found urs and I found something about ur blog just heart warming Now i found ur caringbridge site once ( my cousins had one) but would You mind telling me what is was so i can get a better feeling on what was going on there. My sister has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. I want to see the differences and what wil be the same about it please Thank You Katie!!

  10. Katie says:

    Also I was wondering if u could upload more pics just to see how u guys were as a family even with Kayla sick

  11. Katie says:

    or her chemo process hospital pics….it’s all for my sister..she is amazing and I wanna show her that she can still have a good life because u did it

  12. Kathyjinkerson says:

    Hi my heart goes out to you my special needs son with cancer he was 30 I was his caregiver for two in a half years while he was sick. It is so hard to watch your child when you can’t do a darn thing. It is so hard for me each day but I go on.i miss him so very much. God bless Kathy jinkerson@yahoo.com

  13. Kathyjinkerson says:

    I also wanted to say they are I. Heaven now with the angels but I know one day we will meet again.

  14. Erandy says:

    I just lost my son to cancer I need someone to talk too

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