The Journey in Photographs:
Images from the first 48 hours
Strictly speaking, I don’t believe in magic. Oh, I like to watch a good sleight of hand, and I’ve been known to label scientific progress as “magical” a time or two, but I’m one of those guys who believes every unexplained phenomenon can be logically explained somehow. I can’t explain Jordan’s progress. It is everything we could have hoped for and more. To watch her these past two days is to experience pure, bewitching magic.
The surgery was a great success. We’ve always thought of her neurosurgeon as a rock star, but his latest performance is hall-of-fame worthy. Jordan had an MRI of her spine yesterday morning, and from the looks of it it appears he was able to remove all of the tumor in her spine. That, in itself, is terrific news, but what makes it all the more gratifying is that Jordan is recovering so quickly. She has no pain. In fact, since her surgery she’s only had one dose of Tylenol to address some soreness in her shoulders. Tylenol! She is in great spirits–super talkative, ebullient, and occasionally ornery. She is able to sit up and move around freely. All of her vital signs are good. She is able to move both legs. Her right leg is still weaker than her left, but she can lift it, bend it, and wiggle her toes some. And, she is starting to walk.
At about 5pm on Friday, Jordan met Laura, her physical therapist. Laura is a perfect fit for Jordan. She shares Jordan’s unbridled drive and mixes it with great fun. She reminded me of the ideal athletic coach: always pushing, encouraging, and changing up the game plan from time to time to keep the player engaged. Jordan was instantly attached to her.
–Let’s get out of this bed and do some walking, Laura said
Jordan sat up, a broad smile across her face. She was ready to throw her legs over and move. We actually had to slow her down and remind her that there were some preparations we had to make first. After Laura fetched a walker and prepared Jordan’s IV and catheter bag for mobility, it was time for Jordan to stand up on her own two feet. I watched her face as she slowly dragged her right leg over the side of the bed and began to put her weight forward. I think this was the first time that Jordan realized her legs felt different. She looked concerned as her right foot curled under and barely moved the way she thought it would. But she didn’t give up. You could see the effort in her face. While Laura encouraged her to keep at it, Jordan willed her foot to move forward. It did so gradually, and eventually she was standing on it; her arms shaking to support her weight. The left foot moved a little easier, but still jerky and awkward.
Laura and Jordan practiced making small steps around her room. Jordan kept trying to do too much too fast. In her head, she knows what she wants her legs to do, but they can’t do it yet. We kept reminding her to only move one foot at a time. She wants to be fluid, but when she tries to move one foot before the other has completed its step she loses her balance. The walker begins to get away from her and she careens to the side.
It was an amazingly emotional experience. I was completely inspired by what she was doing at that moment. She was learning to walk again and it was anything but easy. She was incredibly focused and she was working up a sweat. At one point, she exclaimed, “this is a lot of work!” But she didn’t give up. In fact, after the first few minutes I imagined that Laura would say this was all for the day. And this is why Laura is such a good fit for Jordan. After those first tough, clumsy steps, Laura said, “great! Let’s put on your leg splints and walk down the hall.” Jordan was all in.
After she’d put on her splints and shoes, Jeanette stood behind Jordan and held her waist for support. Laura held the IV. I tried to stay out of the way and open doors as needed. I also grabbed my camera. Jordan began a slow, 10 minute walk out of her room, down the hallway and back. To help her focus on one foot at a time, we coached her with a rhythmic script.
–Right foot. Left foot. Walker. Right foot. Left foot. Walker.
It took the longest for her to move the right foot each time. And as the time passed, she had less and less strength to lift it all the way from the floor. She jutted forward with the walker, groaning here and there, willing her feet to carry her. Jeanette received quite a work out, supporting Jordan and catching her when her steps threatened to get away from her. However, she successfully made her way down the hall and back. And when it was done, she sat down in a chair, completely exhausted. I was swept away by the glory of it. 24 hours before I had worried so much that Jordan might not walk again. I never would have imagined that she would be on her feet so soon after such a challenging surgery. I had shortchanged my girl’s spirit. I must never forget that she’s a warrior–a tough-as-nails competitor. That’s why cancer keeps getting kicked in the teeth. I am so proud of her and so delighted that she is back to herself.
We still have some challenges ahead. We know that the tumor that was removed is different from the tumor tissue she was originally diagnosed with. From the analysis the team conducted in the operating room, it appears to be an astrocytoma. We don’t know anything more about the grade or type just yet. That analysis should come through this week. There is a good chance the oncology team will recommend more chemo. Jordan has had a few seizures in the hospital. These trouble her. And she’s a little worried because her bladder function isn’t 100% yet. We’re hoping she will regain enough strength that she doesn’t need to be catheterized. At the moment, she’s not able to expel enough urine to keep herself safe. She could have kidney failure if she can’t improve this function. We knew this was a possibility because of the surgery, but we’re hopeful that Jordan will keep getting stronger.
Just a moment ago she called me on my cell phone.
–Dad, I have some good news for you!
–The doctor just game in and he took off my band-aid.
–The one that was on my back! Isn’t that great?
It was no band-aid at all. It was the surgical dressing. Jordan was thrilled to have it off and I was amazed that she’s healing so fast. I guess maybe magic does exist, after all.