The death of your child follows you everywhere you go, hovering in your blindspot. That’s how Lorrie Moore describes parenting a child with cancer in People Like That Are The Only People Here. In your blindspot: just out of reach, never in focus, but there.

So you move along, heading for that sacred destination (cure, survival) and on good days, you get into a groove, lulled into a feeling of comfort, of certainty even (certain that this child will be okay, this child will escape the worst fate). But then, for whatever reason, you reposition yourself and glance over your shoulder and there it is.

Just lingering, hovering. If you try to really look it in the face, try to grab it and shake it and tell it to leave you the hell alone, it would disappear. It’s unreachable, ungrabbable. But there.

Wilms’ tumor is one of the big success stories of pediatric cancer. But that’s because it’s relatively easy to beat the first time around. Once it makes it past that first round, once it survives the initial onslaught . . . well, then it’s not so easy to beat.

We don’t put much weight in survival statistics these days. Of course, there are no accurate numbers for a kid like Austin; he doesn’t fall neatly into any pre-existing category. When we pore over the research with his doctors, we inevitably say, “Well, he’s a little bit like this and a little bit like that,” and “Oh, this case looks like his except for (insert major event here).” So we really have no guidepost, no reliable map to follow.

But if we were forced to give a number, if we had to choose some random survival statistic, it would surely fall below the 50% mark. Which is partly why we don’t put much weight in survival statistics these days. Austin has always fallen outside of the range of normal. Since Day One, nothing about his cancer has been textbook. So we buck up and figure this won’t be textbook either; he’ll just continue beating the odds because that’s how he does it.

The treatment plan we’re following is a full-court press. We’re going whole hog, guns blazing, no holds barred, enter whatever metaphor you’d like to say we’re doing every damn thing we can. When I said in an earlier post that this plan “just might work,” I was wrong. It must work, it has to work.

It’s all we’ve got.

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