On June 21, 2009, I woke up and crawled into bed with Aidan to talk about what we were going to do for Daddy that day because it was Father's Day. Little did I know, it would be the last time I would cuddle with my son in his bed.
A few hours later, the lingering cough he had from a previous chest cold turned squeaky, and despite his telling me that he felt "fine", I convinced him to take a ride to the ER with me for a quick check-up. Little did I know, it would be the last time I would ever be able to look back at him in my car mirror to see him smiling back at me.
When we arrived at the ER, the triage nurse told us that we would have to wait a long time because the ER was packed with patients "much sicker than Aidan", so we talked about funny things like how he and Daddy love potty talk, even though it sometimes annoys me, and how some of his friends call their mothers "Mom", but he still prefers, "Mommy". Little did I know, these silly conversations would be some of our last.
After several hours, Aidan was hungry and tried to talk me into going home because he "wasn't THAT sick". Even though he did seem to be doing a lot better, I told him that we had to stay since we had already waited that long, and I scraped together enough change to buy him two bags of Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies from the vending machine. Little did I know, that would be his last meal.
When we finally got in to see the doctor, he ordered blood work and a chest x-ray. While we were waiting for the results, Aidan and I colored a picture of Spiderman together. Little did I know, that it would be the last art project we did together.
The doctor called me out into the hallway, and we watched through the glass window as Aidan showed the nurses some of his dance moves. He was so full of joy and LIFE. The doctor proceeded to say, "It's amazing how well he looks and how much energy he has because Aidan is a VERY sick little boy....." Little did I know, as I dropped to my knees out of Aidan's sight, sobbing and trying not to throw-up, that my life up until now was BEFORE and from this moment on was going to be the AFTER.
I had to call my husband to tell him that, rather than us coming home to celebrate Father's Day, he had to come to the hospital. I met him in the parking lot with the news...Aidan had cancer...some form of Leukemia...They still needed to run more tests to determine the type, treatment, and prognosis. He was being admitted to the Children's Hospital of Orange County Pediatric ICU and would see the oncology team the next day. We told Aidan that we were all having a "sleepover" because the "best doctor in the whole world" was coming in the next day to figure out his funny cough. We watched Star Wars together, and while Josh was in the bathroom, I started to tuck him in. With tears in those big blue eyes, he looked at me and said, "This is the WORST Father's Day EVER! POOR DADDY! Let's celebrate tomorrow!" Little did I know, that it would be the last time we would tuck Aidan in and that celebration would never happen.
Later that night, I awoke to Aidan struggling for breath. I sat him up and screamed for the nurses. He grabbed onto me, with fear in his eyes, and forced out the words, "I can't breathe. Mommy, I’m dying." Little did I know, it would be the last time I would hear his sweet voice or see his beautiful blue eyes open.
Aidan had gone into respiratory arrest because the squeaky cough was being caused by a tumor in his chest pushing on his airway, and by that night, it had completely blocked the airway. They sedated him and put him on a respirator. The next day, the oncologist told us that he had the "most common, curable, childhood cancer" (Acute Lymphatic Leukemia - ALL), and within 10 days of starting chemotherapy, he was in remission!! However, a cure was not to be. Aidan contracted the swine flu in the hospital, and 26 days after I brought him to the ER, he died in my arms, surrounded by our family and the medical staff. Little did I know, at 39 years old, I had just discovered why I was put on this earth. My mission in life would become creating a legacy for Aidan while doing my part to help fund more targeted treatments and effective cures for blood cancer, so no one will ever have to watch their loved ones suffer, and possibly, die.
That's why I created TEAM FOR THE LOVE OF AIDAN through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team-in-Training. Focusing my grief on this mission literally helps me chose to LIVE and makes me a better Mom so that Aidan's death doesn't define my young daughter, Ava and Ella's, childhood.
TEAM FOR THE LOVE OF AIDAN has raised over $200,000, and in 2017, we were awarded a medical research grant in Aidan's memory in Immunotherapies Research. The cutting-edge research his grant and other LLS grants are funding are advancing breakthroughs in immunotherapy, genomics, and personalized medicine. It’s already saving lives, and although these new treatments were originally discovered through blood cancer research, they are now being tested in clinical trials for other cancers.
Little did I know, just like the superheroes Aidan loved, he would save lives too.
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