A few days ago a plea I made on Facebook for my son’s life went viral. As of today it’s been shared over 6,000 times, but still I worry my plea has been unheard.
My son, my precious two year old Atticus, is fighting a form of childhood cancer called Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), right now. Except for the cancer and his treatment he’s like every other two-year-old. He loves dinosaurs, silly jokes, his dog, his five-year-old sister and did I mention dinosaurs? Atticus is a hefty, strong kid – I have never had to put a band-aid on him, he’d never had an ear infection, never had a fever, never threw up, he was literally never sick a day in his life until he got cancer.
His type of leukemia, ALL, is the most common, most researched childhood cancer, yet it cannot be predicted or prevented, only treated. Everyone who has ever met my AtticusterMan is always amazed at just how happy he is. His baseline for existing is just to see the world as all sunshine and rainbows, and I have done my best to keep that for him. He actually loves broccoli, but the chemo has killed off most of his taste buds, so right now, nothing except super strongly flavored food tastes like anything to him. So we do what we can to get him to eat.
Atticus has some of the cutest sayings, as toddlers do, including, when something comes apart, asking me to “Mommy put together back again.” And I will be so upset when that is corrected, because it’s just so stinkin’ cute. His favorite game is pillow attack, which is basically just a pillow fight where he falls on the bed laughing every two seconds, while trying to wrap his little arms around a pillow. He calls his bottom his “bootybutt”, and because there are sores inside of his rectum, not visible on the outside as a result of the chemotherapy, it reduces him to tears every time he has to poop. He loves watching Godzilla shorts on YouTube. He calls Godzilla ” Monstersaurus” which I think is adorable.
Atticus is fighting cancer like a boss, undergoing chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is rough on adults, imagine how hard it is for a toddler. The chemotherapy has left him neutropaenic at the moment. You probably don’t know what that means. It means that his neutrophils, which are the white blood cells that fight disease in your body, are tanked out. Chemotherapy kills cancer cells (which grow rapidly), but it also kills healthy cells that also grow rapidly, and that includes white blood cells.
A healthy person’s Absolute Neutrophil Count (ANC) is anywhere above 1500. Right now, today, my son’s ANC is 60. Yes, 60. Meaning he has less than 10% of an immune system. He has 4.5% of an immune system, to be precise. He’s too young to have received the full CDC recommended vaccination schedule and he’s sick to be vaccinated. This is why he relies on everyone else being vaccinated. For those of you on the fence about vaccinating, please, please, please, I’m begging you, as a mother, please vaccinate your healthy children.
If he is exposed to measles right now, there is nothing they can do for him. Nothing. There is a 7 in 10 chance the measles would kill him. If you’ve ever known real, true terror, you know how I am feeling right now as a mother. There is nothing you can face as a mother that is worse than a credible threat to your child’s life.
There’s a lot of good information on the internet, and there’s a lot of really crappy information. Parents can be scared off vaccinating by websites that mislead them and have no basis in science. Even as my Facebook plea for my son’s life went viral last week people were posting comments on my status that could politely be described as lunacy. To those who shared anti-vaccine bunk on my status last week all I can say is, I hope you are never faced with the fear my husband and I live with every day – that someone else’s misinformed decision could take our precious son from us.
The worst part of seeing the crazier comments is feeling alone. There are no words to describe that fear, and the feeling of helplessness that goes with it. I cannot control if someone else vaccinates, but they can kill my child by not doing it. Feeling like no one else could give a damn if Atticus lives or dies. Atticus’ death, which is hard for me to even contemplate, would cut me to the very essence of my soul and change everything about life as I know it. I’m not alone. Thankfully I have wonderful friends, many of whom have a background in medicine and science, that were able to deal with the comments for me so I could focus on Atticus.
It wasn’t just my friends that came to Atticus’ aid last week; I saw that the majority of the comments on my post were positive. Most people agreed that vaccination was important and that Atticus deserves a long and healthy life. To everyone providing support, love, good thoughts, and prayers for my sweet Atticuster, I can’t thank you enough. Just knowing that people who have never met my precious baby are praying for him, thinking of him, and wishing him well helps us so much – the majority of the comments are so supportive and loving, and for that, I cannot tell you how grateful I am.
Please protect your own children, and children like mine. Vaccinate. It could be the difference between me watching my son grow up, and me standing next to a hole in the ground, begging to go into it so he doesn’t have to be alone as the dirt falls on top of him. I can’t tell you how much I need my son to live. He deserves to live, he deserves to beat this and see his third, and then fourth, and every other birthday after that.
Please, mothers. Please.
For more information about childhood vaccines and vaccine safety, please visit CDC | Childhood Vaccines, Every Child By Two and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) | Vaccine Education Center