You know, as a person who likes words, I am a little disappointed with the word “relieved.” There is no superlative form, nothing to make simple relief that much greater. Happy can turn to ecstatic, angry to enraged, hungry to famished. But relieved just becomes very very relieved.

So that’s what we are right now, good word or not: very very relieved.

We’ve just returned from our meeting with Dr Auletta and, while we know nothing in the world of pediatric cancer is ever set in stone, the plan as it now stands is pretty darn good. Austin will have surgery here at Rainbow on Monday morning with Dr Elder, who’s done two of his previous four procedures. They will remove the small tumor, look for any lymph nodes in the abdomen (although we haven’t seen any on the scans) and maybe biopsy a small shadow on the kidney. And that’s it.

That’s it. No chemo and no radiation because neither has ever proven effective in treating the extremely rare type of tumors that Austin has had. (Sort of makes you wonder why he had chemo in the first place, huh? But that’s another issue.) So for now, all of the experts agree that surgical resection of the tumor is the treatment for whatever it is that Austin has right now.

Of course, there are many risks associated with this surgery, including the possibility that the kidney is more involved than we previously thought and needs to be removed. No one is expecting that to happen and we are doing all we can to protect that kidney. Once they open him up and can actually see what’s inside him, it could turn out that it’s all more complicated than we thought. Maybe the tumor is wrapped around an artery or is attached to the kidney or to something else in there. You know, his scans are very hard to read (and I don’t mean by me, but by the best doctors in the country) because his kidney is so distorted. So it’s very hard to tell what’s normal kidney, what’s scar tissue, what’s cancer, what’s nothing. Hopefully with a better view, we’ll get a better sense of what we’re dealing with.

And, of course, there are all the risks of surgical complications and what will probably be a difficult recovery. They do expect that he’ll develop an ileus,  but I’ll take an ileus and ten miserable days over months and months of chemo and radiation.  We expect to be in the hospital for seven to ten days, maybe more, but this we can do.

This we can do. Two weeks in the hospital will not change our lives, it will not change the open and inquisitive and gentle boy that Braedan is, nor will it change the confident and rambunctious and vibrant boy that Austin is.  Assuming everything goes as planned and assuming no terrible new discoveries are made, we’ll do a CT scan in three months and then every six after that. And ultimately, we’ll be back where we were eight days ago: normal, alive, together.

And lucky.

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