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January 25 - What This Day Means to Me (2023)


Eight years and 18 days ago, I walked into an emergency room and saw an ER doctor looking very sad and disturbed. A colleague of his also noticed this and said, “what’s wrong with you? You look like someone pooped in your puppy chow.” The first doctor replied that a family was getting some very bad news and he knew they had a hard road ahead.

I walked on to Peyton’s room where he was waiting for me to get back from getting Emma and Jacob fed and settled at home with their grandparents. We had taken Peyton in earlier for some x-rays and instead of releasing him they sent him to the ER for more testing. I felt sad for the family getting the bad news, but was glad it wasn’t us and I was anxious to find out what was wrong with Peyton so we could start treating him and get him home.

When I walked into Peyton’s room, he was (of course) eating an orange popsicle. He was not allowed to eat anything else due to the tests they were running, and he kept saying that I forgot to feed him dinner. It broke my heart that I couldn’t make him understand I couldn’t feed him.

Eric wasn’t in Peyton’s room when I arrived back there. I thought that was odd since Peyton was only 3 and we wouldn’t have left him alone like that, but figured maybe he needed a quick pit stop having been at this for hours.

A few minutes later, a nurse came and called me out of the room. She led me to a room where Eric was in a state I had never seen. He was hyperventilating and couldn’t feel his hands. She proceeded to tell me that Peyton had “cancer.” They didn’t know anything else at that time, but he was being transported to Riley Children’s Hospital for more testing and to begin treatments.

Why this nurse thought it was a good idea to separate us like that and hit us with the hardest news of our lives while we couldn’t lean on each other (and while Peyton sat in the room by himself!), I don’t know.

I kicked into mom mode and started notifying people and making arrangements to be at Riley for a while. I rode in the ambulance with Peyton and Eric drove straight there in our car. At one point after Eric left, I remember one of the paramedics asking if the man in the room was my husband. No, he had left. It was Peyton’s pediatrician. He had heard the news (and I suspect knew something was very wrong from the tests he had run and was requesting from the hospital), and must have left immediately to come to the hospital. I hadn’t eaten all day and was still breastfeeding Jacob so I was feeling pretty weak. He got me some snacks from the hospital and advised me to eat in the ambulance (I wasn’t allowed to ride in the back with Peyton), as that would be the only time I could eat something without Peyton seeing and wanting some.

We had no idea what was in store for us at this point. We were scared, but we were not preparing for Peyton to die. I don’t know if that is even possible anyway.

Eight years ago today, Peyton went back to the hospital for the last time. He lost consciousness for the last time. He stopped being Peyton as we knew him.

There is much more to this story, but writing it makes me sad and tired. We have very busy and full lives and are fortunate in so many ways I can’t even count them. I will never take those things for granted, but nothing can replace the hole that was left when Peyton died. He is a part of our family, yet we live day to day without his physical presence. Every milestone is missing something. Every celebration not purely joyous. Every day leaves us wondering what Peyton would look like and what would be his hobbies. Every day is a mix of gratitude and grief. Every day is a little less.

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