Tag Archive: toddler

Rhiannan and the Doctors

Doc apt booksIt took eleven years of trying and a lot of different infertility treatments for my husband and me to get pregnant. In 2007, we finalized the adoption of our older daughter and I gave birth to a healthy baby girl. We named her Rhiannan.

The tumorWhen she started walking, I found a lump on her back. The pediatrician was concerned, but said she would check again at Rhiannan’s one year appointment.

The lump was still there.Crackers

We went to the hospital for an ultrasound. Rhiannan was happy because there were all kinds of toys to play with, and the procedure consisted of snuggling Mommy while some weird lady but sticky stuff on her back and rubbed a wand over her. I, however, was worried when they told me “Wait here. Your pediatrician wants to talk with you.” I was then instructed to take my toddler directly to onconolgy. They were making an appointment for her then and there.PreMRI

The word terrified me. It means cancer…something we can’t cure and something no child should be afflicted with. I will skip ahead, and tell you it wasn’t cancer, but something else. And it has a happy ending.

The crib after the first surgery, when she was still wiggly.

The crib after the first surgery, when she was still wiggly.

Because Rhiannan was so small, the MRI of her back included most of her torso and hips. It was the MRI that saved her life because, although the lipoma was the main concern, it turned out to be the symptom of something bigger.

My daughter had a tethered spinal cord.

The doctor explained it to us like this: There’s a bit of sticky mass, like bubble gum, at the base of her spine where her nerves are supposed to spread out to her lower body. Instead of growing with her, the nerves were stretching. She would eventually be in a wheelchair.

Recovery after the first surgery

Recovery after the first surgery

Rhiannan’s first surgery, to remove the lipoma, was fairly simple. Samples of the lump were sent to labs across the country, as is procedure in pediatric cases, and they came back as benign. No cancer. She came home the next day her usual giggly wiggly self.

The second surgery, to release the tethered spinal cord, was more complicated, and much more scary. When I asked my pediatrician “How will I keep a fourteen-month-old still for three days?” she answered “Don’t worry. She won’t want to move.”

Ready for surgery

Ready for surgery

The pediatrician was right.

Rhiannan and I spent three days in the hospital. Since I was breastfeeding, I was the usually the parent who was there with her, as well as sleeping overnight. A sign over her hospital crib sternly warned everyone that she could only be moved in a log roll, she could not be picked up and held. I pumped milk and gave it to her in a bottle. She had bits of real food when she felt like it, but most of the time she was sleeping, and healing.pink car

On the third day, she was allowed to sit up. That went well, so we moved on to the next greatest thing which was being pushed around the ward in the awesome little pink car.

My baby didn’t have cancer. She had two tumors, but with the grace of God and the miracles of modern medicine, both of those were healed. At her one-year follow-up appointment, the surgeon happily told us she’d probably never see us again, and she wished us well.

And well is what we’ve been.


You can see the slight scar on her right shoulder blade, and the butterfly bandage over the second incision.

You can see the slight scar on her right shoulder blade, and the butterfly bandage over the second incision.



Autumn eyed the large animals with suspicion. Audriahna pulled herself up on her chubby little legs, fascinated by the creatures.

“I take it she’s never seen a norse before?” their host asked, clearing the plates from their picnic.

“This is her first time. I’ve only seen horses and norses in parades and petting zoos, never in their natural environment.”

The other children giggled, and ran off to gather flowering thistles to feed the animals. “Heh… I’m not sure if a manicured pasture counts as their “natural environment” but your daughter sure seems to like them.”

Sure enough, Audriahna was teetering on her little legs, one hand with a fistfull of her mother’s blouse and the other hand pointing at the norses as she squealed “Ooooooohsssieee!”

Autumn was not an animal lover. The horses scared her enough, but the norses, almost twice as big, were terrifying. She just could not see what so many people idolized about them. Beautiful, yes. Useful, certainly. But when the host’s children called for her to come over to the fence and pet them, she hesitated.

Audriahna was on the blanket with two little girls, playing with the flowers they’d picked. Autumn considered bringing the baby over to pet the huge creature, but decided the baby was much safer on the blanket.

The norse was surprisingly gentle. Autumn did manage to touch the soft fur on the norse’s nose, but politely refused to attempt to feed the animal.

Too late, she realized that the little girl urging a flower into her hand was the same one who had been on the blanket with Audriahna. She glanced back at the blanket, which was empty. Whirling around, she spotted her baby… her toddler… taking not-so-shaky steps, practically running to the fence where the other kids were attempting to coax the norse to eat.

“No!” she yelled and everything seemed to move in slow motion.  Audriahna fell when she reached the fence, but began to crawl under the lowest slat, right by the animal’s rear hoof. Autumn practically fell over the top slat, scrambled to her daughter and grabbed her out of the way just as the startled animal kicked.

This story was written in response to a Write on Edge prompt about local items, which in this case are the norses. It’s sort-of an excerpt from my 2010 NaNoWriMo novel, Dogs, Cats, and Allergies. I never actually tell the story in the novel, it’s just part of the backstory. I’m not sure it stands alone as a story… more like an anecdote. That time when a mother thinks her baby is safe, but suddenly the baby is much more mobile than she ever dreamed possible!

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