This is the picture I took that, unbeknownst to me at the time, would flip our entire universe upside down. An entire month would come to pass, wherein we sat with bated breath waiting to find out whether our baby girl had a cancerous tumor.
Taken in early December 2013, when Margot was 10 months old, this picture became a blaring alarm bell; while I was running a bath for us to take together, I couldn't help but giggle and marvel at that cute tiny little bum - so I pulled my phone out of my pocket, and snapped a string of little naked baby pictures. I noticed nothing amiss, and went on to have our warm bath, then continue on with our day as usual. That night, though, long after she was in bed, I was looking at the pictures I had taken, and realized that in every single one, there was this small but unmistakable lump on her back, sitting just below her left shoulder blade. I'd never noticed it in person, but there it was in these pictures, staring back at me. I worked hard at keeping calm about it, not wanting to overreact, so at first I kept it to myself. But I spent the following day at work stewing over it all day long. I was obsessing. I kept flipping through these shots on my phone, zooming in, and simultaneously wracking my brain as to whether I'd ever seen this lump before - whether maybe I was making the whole thing up and it was just a little part of her body - or maybe it was just an odd shadowing effect and there was nothing there after all.
But I couldn't shake my intuition; there was a lump on Margot's back, and I knew something wasn't right. So when I got home from work, I told Daryl, showed him the picture, and he agreed that we should call the pediatrician. Well, okay, I thought - did Daryl's acknowledgement make me worry more, or less? I couldn't decide. We called the doctor, and the very next morning we found ourselves at our clinic, watching Margot's pediatrician examine the lump, ask us a series of questions about when we'd noticed it, what we could glean as far as whether or not it was causing her pain, or whether we'd noticed any changes in appearance since finding it - uh, no, as far as I was concerned, this thing was less than 48 hours old. We'd only just met one another's acquaintance; we hadn't exactly exchanged phone numbers or gone out to dinner and dancing. I had no idea what to tell her about this thing except that no, from what I could tell, Margot didn't even know it existed. She certainly didn't seem fazed by it.
Well, while her pediatrician speculated that chances were good that this was nothing more than something called a lipoma, a harmless cluster of fatty tissue, she encouraged us to drive across town to the children's hospital, where Margot could get an ultrasound done on it. This would determine with more certainty what we were up against. Now, the pediatrician happens to be one of the most lovely people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, and her bedside manner is remarkably wonderful. But the fact that she placed a call and got the hospital to squeeze Margot in for an ultrasound 20 minutes from that moment had me understandably on edge. I mean, if it wasn't at least some degree of concern, would we not have been waiting a day or two, or even a week? Anyway, off we went - we bundled back up into our car and drove over to the hospital, and sat with our tiny girl while she had an ultrasound.
This went as well as we could expect - especially since she was so caught up in that little light-up toy, she didn't even know what was going on. After it was over, we were sent home and told to wait for a phone call to give us the results and bring us up to speed. The waiting was agony, of course, but we managed. And a few days later, the pediatrician called us and told us what can only be classified as bad news, in spite of its uncertain nature. Unfortunately, she said, this wasn't a lipoma after all. There are blood vessels extending deep within the mass, she went on, and her hope now was that this was something called a hemangioma - a benign tumor, but a tumor nonetheless. She encouraged us to do our best not to worry, and told us that the next step would be an MRI.
An MRI?! Okay, I told myself; breathe deep. We don't know what this is, but the MRI will tell us conclusively. And until we find out, there's no sense in worrying. That little lump is there, snug on Margot's back, and there was nothing any of us could do about it. So an MRI was scheduled, and much to our chagrin, it was three weeks away. To this day I can't exactly be sure how I made it through those weeks, because never in my life have I felt so worried, so afraid and so anxious. My tiny, happy little girl was being poked, prodded, and examined and she had no idea what was going on; and really, I had to find solace in that; I was thankful that she wasn't in pain.
Finally, the day of the MRI came. We got up at the crack of dawn and drove back to the hospital, and checked ourselves in. We filled out the paperwork, we met a series of nurses, doctors, and an anesthesiologist, and then we got Margot into her tiny little hospital gown. How tiny she looked - how sweet her little face was - it was all I could do to keep from crying.
Then we held sweet Margot while she was given an IV in the back of her tiny hand, and while she was sedated. Never in my life have I so badly needed to crumple into a ball and weep as I did while I watched the life slip out of her eyes, and as she was laid onto a hospital bed and wheeled down the hallway, away from me.
We waited about an hour and a half when all was said and done; the MRI went perfectly smoothly, we were told - thank God! - and here was our groggy little girl, so doped up she looked as though she had had about as much wine as a frat girl at a party. And oh, did we ever laugh! She was like a little bobblehead on drugs.
SO. Okay. I'm getting long-winded, here. Back home we went, with our little frat baby in tow. And of course, we were told to wait again. This time, three days. It was a Friday, so we had to wait for the weekend to pass before we'd find anything out. So on Monday morning, I called our clinic, who told us our pediatrician was out of town until the following Friday (No. NO.), and the pediatrician who was replacing her was swamped with work, so I'd maybe hear back, but also maybe not. I was advised to call the hospital. Okay. So on a wild goose chase I went - but no, sorry, the hospital wouldn't give me any information unless I printed out an information release and either faxed it or snail-mailed it. (FAX? Who faxes anymore?!) I nearly bit this woman's head off on the phone, but Daryl bopped me on the head and reminded me she was just the messenger and to let it go. Blughghghh. So I called the clinic again and begged them to please have this on-call pediatrician call us. Please. Please. I just need to know if my baby's okay. Then I hung up, and waited.
And then - finally - a phone call...
With the blessed good news that this was indeed just a hemangioma! With an exclamation point at the end! We got the news that this little lump is a harmless, benign tumor that needs no further attention or treatment. It'll disappear on its own time over the course of the next handful of years, and won't cause our girl one bit of pain or discomfort.
I don't think I can ever do justice to the fear that rippled through my heart and my body while we waited. Never in my life have I been more afraid than I was at the thought of what could have been.
Daryl and I, well, we were bowled over. I was finally able to exhale for the first time in nearly a month.