The Moment We Thought Our Daughter Could Have Cancer


A doctor checking a child.May 15, 2014 was a very emotional day for me. It was the day I gave birth to our youngest daughter, Madelyn. It was also the day my older daughter, Sophia (then two years old), was scheduled for a biopsy at Northern Westchester Hospital.

Madelyn was five days past her due date, and I had hoped to have given birth and be discharged because this biopsy was my priority. As my contractions began that night before, after 11 p.m., I became stressed and saddened that I wouldn’t be there before and after Sophia was put to sleep for this procedure.

A month earlier, we discovered a large lump on Sophia’s neck. The lump seemed to have appeared overnight. She didn’t appear sick and didn’t have a cold.

I wasn’t too alarmed, though, because I thought it might be a swollen gland or a cyst. In the past, I have had a couple of cysts removed. I also remember my mother visiting her dermatologist about having a cyst before; therefore, I imagined it was common for my family.

So without much worry, I made an appointment for her to be seen by one of the pediatricians in her doctor’s office (her primary doctor was away at the time). We discussed what this might be and the options for ruling out some possibilities. I remember some suggestions being an infection or an injury. Sophia was (and still is) a thumb sucker, and we discussed an atypical mycobacterial infection as another possibility that is common for thumb suckers.

We were prescribed horrible-tasting antibiotics to rule out several bacterial infections while exploring other tests, including bloodwork.

I was then advised to schedule an appointment with an ENT. He prescribed us a different horrible-tasting antibiotic and recommended that we schedule an ultrasound. We also had to follow up with her primary physician in the interim.

I was full-term in my pregnancy and running from my appointments to Sophia’s appointments, and still squeezing in playdates and chauffeuring my older kids to their activities.

Moms find strength where there should be none.

The ultrasound came back inconclusive, so they scheduled Sophia for a biopsy. At the time, I wouldn’t admit to myself that I knew that cancer was a real possibility. That was like betraying my baby girl. To hope so badly one moment and be overwhelmed with fear the next moment put us on a seesaw of emotion.

May 10 came and went, and there was no newborn Madelyn, so I just hoped I could hold off until after Sophia’s procedure. But of course, my contractions came the night before, and beautiful Madelyn was born within four hours.

So her father went alone. He described the experience as a very emotional one to me. When they gave her the sleeping medicine to prepare for the sleeping gas, she was very goofy and silly. Dave was okay until she was given gas to put her to sleep. She struggled and cried in fear until going limp.

Alone outside the operating room, Dave became overwhelmed with emotion about the possibilities for our future. When she was wheeled into recovery, they were surrounded by oncology patients in recovery. He felt so sad and scared for his little girl. He could see the pity underneath the smiles of the kind nurses. Immediately after, they returned to the hospital to visit Madelyn and me.

Two weeks later, we removed the bandage, and the lump had disappeared. We are still unsure of what caused it.  

We had put this experience entirely behind us. Lost and forgotten in our past until I was reminded that our lives could have been forever changed if that lump was cancer.  

One evening after my son’s football practice, I came home with a flyer about a blood drive. On the flyer was a picture of Gio in his baseball uniform. He was diagnosed on Aug 10, 2016 with Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (Stage 3). He receives inpatient chemotherapy at the Maria Ferrari Children’s Hospital.

His cancer is very aggressive, so he receives 2 to 3 different chemo treatments each day for five consecutive days. Gio has an upcoming birthday; he will be five years old on Nov 15 (13 days after Sophia’s 5th birthday). 

I put the flyer on my refrigerator because I immediately connected with this family. This was also going to be the very first time I donated blood. The next morning, Sophia noticed Gio’s flyer, and she said right away, “Mom, that’s Gio, he went to my [summer] camp.” She wanted to know what the flyer was about and I had to tell her that he was very sick. Explaining this brought all those repressed memories back.

I look at Gio, and I see my children. It reminds me that this could be me at any moment.

While I want to stay optimistic and appreciative of my life, I realize it can always be my family or me. Those affected by cancer are never prepared for the fight of their lives. With a cancer diagnosis, one day you don’t know, and the next day you do. And there is no going back, only fighting. 

In Our Childhood Cancer Story: GioStrong, Lauren shares her story about Gio’s diagnosis.

With the support of his family, friends, and the Ossining community, he is fighting cancer. For more information about Gio, visit here and follow #Giostrong.

UPDATE: As of February 2017, Gio is cancer-free. He is a survivor and an inspiration to all of us.

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Leah lived in New York City for most of her life and moved to Westchester County in 2011 to blend and extend her family with an adorable high school Math teacher she met on After 7 years of staying home and working part-time, she is back to the full time grind, commuting to the Bronx daily in her minivan a.k.a. trusty mommy wagon (this city girl’s first and only car). This full-time working, part-time blogging mother-of-4 seems to have it all together to the observer. In fact, part of this illusion is truly having the most amazingly resilient children a mother could ask for. Leah is an overthinking, jam pack the agenda, let loose when no one’s watching, be kind to your neighbor, sanity don’t fail me now kind of soul and she loves being a part of Westchester County Moms Blog. She strives to keep her kids super busy with a wide variety and good balance of academic, social, and athletic activities while desperately managing her home and budget.