Jim & Katie Tyson | Heroes of RVA

(1/5) When we tell people that his cancer is Leukemia, they almost sound relieved. And a 90% survival rate is definitely more promising than some of the other more aggressive cancers. But I like to use this analogy: You have to put your kid on an airplane. There are ten airplanes. Nine of the airplanes are going to land safely, but one is going to crash and everyone on that plane will die. Now, put your kid on one of those planes and tell me how you’re going to feel during the flight. 90% is not 100%. If your child ends up being the 10%, that 90% doesn’t really matter, does it? And you have to face that.

(2/5) In that first month, everyone was giving me these reassurances: “At least it’s now and not ten years ago.” “At least it’s this form of leukemia and not the other.” There are a lot of layers that are put down to protect you from the reality of what the next few years are going to be like.” Because Jim and I are physicians, we know, intellectually and medically, that the statistics have improved. But when I heard the diagnosis, I didn't sit there and think, “Oh, he has leukemia- that means he’s going to live.” All I could think was, “This is my absolute worst nightmare.”

(3/5) Another one of those reassurances we heard was, “Everyone goes into remission.” I remember looking at his attending physician the week before his day 29 bone marrow biopsy and asking him, “But what happens if he doesn’t go into remission?” He looked at me and said, “I cannot tell you the last time that happened.” But I just had this feeling. I was scared that it wasn’t going to come back the way everyone was telling me it would.”

(4/5) We ended up getting the phone call the day that several of our friends and hospital staff had planned to come by for a picnic in our front yard. We had known they were coming, but then I looked out my dining room window and saw them standing there with banners and pails of ice cream. They’d even crocheted blankets for us. It had all the makings of being a celebratory evening. Then, right as we were about to go outside, my phone rang. And my heart sank when I saw the number come up because good news doesn’t come at that hour. When you’re a physician, you call to give good news the minute you get it. It doesn’t wait until the end of the day. And I knew that.”

(5/6) “With dads, it’s a more of a solo journey. I’ll break down with Katie, occasionally. But never in front of the kids. In my profession, people come to me for help and I need to have answers. Just this past week, I was talking with a patient and she told me how she had lost one of her sons in the line of duty. I had a hard time maintaining my composure at that point. I think when your kid is going through something like this, the idea of that kind of loss is always at the forefront of your mind. It’s hard. Twice a month, I have to make a thirty minute commute to our satellite office and during that first year of his treatment, I think I screamed during the entire drive to the office. Two times each month, I was alone and that was when I could let it all out. Then I’d compose myself and go in to do what I needed to do.”

(6/6) Scientifically, we know and understand that cancer is a group of abnormal cells that have gone haywire. That doesn’t make it any less devastating, but unfortunately, it just happens. And it happened to our son. To ascribe to the rationale that ‘Heaven needs another angel,’ or that ‘it’s meant to be’ simply isn’t congruent with the God we believe in. Do we hate cancer? Absolutely, yes. And we have moments of feeling angry that he has to endure this, but we can’t stay there. We’re not angry people.”

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