Today, for the second day in a row, I held my baby down while a technician drew blood. Petunia has been having recurring fevers, and we need to rule out some sort of persistent low level bacterial infection or something worse, like cancer or an autoimmune disease. The doctor ordered the first round of tests yesterday, expecting them to come back indicating nothing, which would have led us to conclude that she has just been getting one virus after another. She's in day care and has an older sister, so this would not be unreasonable.
But the first round of tests came back indicating that something more might be going on. So she ordered more tests. I left work early again today, and drove Petunia to the doctor's office. I held her down to get a chest x-ray (that came back normal) and then to get blood drawn. Finally, I held her down while a nurse gave her a big shot of antibiotics. (The doctor recommended that we start treating on the assumption that the earlier test results were indicating infection, which is far more likely than cancer or an autoimmune diease. Also, the side effects of the antibiotic are upset tummy, which we generally can manage with a probiotic- we use Culturelle.)
We won't have the results of the second round of tests back for a few days, but Petunia seemed back to her usual happy self this evening, so I strongly suspect the eventual diagnosis will be some sort of bacterial infection, which the antibiotic shot cleared up. However, this little episode has got me thinking about cancer, and childhood cancer in particular. When I was a kid, it was practically considered a death sentence. Now, the cure rates of some childhood cancers are above 90%. As unpleasant and nerve-wracking as the last couple of days have been for me, I probably would have been far more worried 20 years ago. There is a lot of work left to do- kids treated for cancer often have long term issues from the treatment. Far too many types of cancers still have few good treatment options. But from where I sit, working in the biotech industry, a lot of progress is being made (I'm too tired to make this a good, link-laden post, but Google Biospace.com or FierceBiotech to find some stories of recent advances and setbacks in the industry.) And from where I sat this week, as a mother of a little baby who probably doesn't have cancer, but whose first round of test results weren't 100% reassuring, I am very grateful for that progress. Now let's keep going until no one has to fear a cancer diagnosis.