Below written by my big sister, Meghan.
“Rocket Ship! Rocket Ship! Rocket Ship!” Teagan yells with excitement as they take her into the room with the 196-ton cancer killing radiation machine. The radiology team does such an amazing job of framing treatment that the kids love it! From the magic white juice (anesthesia) to the rocket ship machine (!) to the personal music selections they play over the speakers (Teagan chooses Frozen), radiation treatment is f.u.n. for the little ones. One mom recently made the mistake of letting her kid have a cracker telling the radiation team that her kid had consumed a cracker and they cancelled his treatment. This of course led to a meltdown for the boy who was denied the magic juice and a trip in the rocket ship. Earlier this week Teagan was ready for radiation before her team had the machine ready. So naturally she screams, “I’m ready! I’m ready! I’m ready!” As the team responds, “We’re hurrying Teagan” they also scramble to get her Frozen music playing before the anesthesia kicks in. “I’m ready! Frozen!”
And while radiation is a blast for the little ones, it is not so for the parents. Teagan’s care team is honest and blunt with Tate and Jeff. The radiologist shared that radiation with kids under 10 years of age likely creates learning disorders. “I walk in everyday to save her life, but also potentially creating a learning disorder. S#!& that sucks.” I called Tate at the perfect time on Friday as she was driving home from Teagan’s treatment. With no interruptions and nothing to ‘do,’ Tate could just talk.
We’re now half way through with radiation, which is great. But it’s also means that we have to face what is next…Cancer is just so pervasive…For so long now I have just been looking forward to treatment being over and this all being over, so we can just get back to being a normal family. But I’m realizing that it will never be over. There will be side-effects and they will possibly keep coming. And it will never be ‘normal’ again. It’s such a harsh reality. The care team is advising me about all the supports that I need to put in place now –emotional supports for both kids, cancer camps for kids and siblings, and all of the other obvious therapies (occupational, speech, physical). This of course has had an effect on Judd as well as he is experiencing stress from all this and his sister getting more attention. He has been having an upset tummy and has been puking on and off with no fevers for the last couple months. He has been put on acid reflux medicine which is likely caused by his stress belly. We’re going to do everything we can to give them ‘normal’ lives, but the reality is that it won’t ever be the same as it was…This week she has taken off – she is walking, squat to stand, holding walls going downstairs. She is speaking incomplete sentences. These are all amazing and make me so happy. But there is also fear. I know, we have to take it one day at a time. And I really hope she’s fine. And I do believe in miracles. But we also must acknowledge the harsh reality.
Intermittently as Tate shares this with me she is crying and laughing. Teagan interrupts her mom’s monologue with a scream for “Pizza!” followed by tears when Tate is unable to produce the desired pizza while traveling down the highway at 65 mph. Laughing, Tate continues:
I love it when she cries. It makes me happy that she is acting like a ‘normal’ 2-year old. She’s tired and she’s hungry. And she’s sick. She got rhinovirus (a type of cold) from Judd and her C-diff (diarrhea) came back. So, she’s in complete isolation – both viral and contact isolation. And she’s really doing great (laughing) – listen to me – she’s undergoing radiation treatment and in full isolation – and I say she’s great. It’s all so relative – she’s alive and not currently puking.
I share these excerpts from my conversation with Tate to provide some insight into the complexity of Fettig family life right now. Yes, Tate absolutely believes in miracles. And yes, Tate is praying and meditating and singing 'Teagan Cancer-free' songs to Teagan each night. And have you seen Jeff? That hilarious, pragmatic man keeps moving forward creating ‘normal’ family memories through all of this – ‘Did anyone say s’mores?’ And Teagan really is doing great. She is only just now starting to feel tired from the radiation treatments. She is mimicking her brother and dancing like a robot while eating breakfast. And we are all so cautiously optimistic. But at the same, treatment is winding down and the family is facing the harsh reality of what comes next.
Thank you for all of the love and support you have provided this family. Please continue to lift them up in spirit as they finish radiation and move forward as a family.