Name: Marsha Rosmann
How were you impacted by cancer?
My son Robby was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the young age of 9. It was November of 1993. He had been playing pee wee football for Kenosha CYC. The season had ended, and he started to complain of his right shoulder hurting. I thought maybe he had gotten hit there during a football game or practice so we didn’t really think too much of it. A few days went by, and he was complaining more so I brought him to the doctor. While at the doctor’s office, they took a chest x-ray and told us that Robby had pneumonia. He was given some medications to take.
The next day, the doctor called us and asked us to bring Robby to Children’s Hospital of WI where they would be able to help him more with the pneumonia. After arriving at the hospital, they did a spinal tap, a bone marrow aspiration and took a quart and a half of fluid out of his lung.
The next day they told us that he had Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. That night, they started chemotherapy.
He was in the hospital for about a week and by this time they stated that he was in remission. The chemotherapy was working. He then had to see the doctor in the clinic twice a week for awhile so that they could keep a close eye on him, and he was also still on some oral chemotherapy medications. Weeks went by and he continued to do well. He eventually went back to school and back to his same old routine.
The visits to the clinic went down to weekly and were going well. We were celebrating the fourth of July at his godmother’s home when he came down with a fever. We were told to bring him back to the hospital if this were to happen, so we did bring him in. They assessed him and did an MRI which showed that the cancer had come back and this time it was by his kidney. They couldn’t determine if it was on the kidney or in the kidney. We discussed in length with his doctors and decided to start a new regimen of chemotherapy. We were also told at this time that since he had relapsed while on chemotherapy he would need to have a bone marrow transplant.
I, my husband, Bob, our son, Josh and daughter, Cassie, were all tested to see if any of us would be a match for the bone marrow transplant. Our daughter Cassie turned out to be a perfect match! She was three years old at this time.
In October of 1994, Robby had his transplant. Cassie was on one floor of the hospital and Robby a different floor. I was terrified, both of my babies were in the hospital! The transplant went well. They were able to get a good amount of bone marrow from Cassie, and she was doing well. Robby wasn’t feeling too well this day. I think he was also worried about his little sister!
That night Robby received the best gift ever from his sister, her bone marrow! I will never forget the look on his face while he was getting it infused. His cheeks were so pink, and he was so exhausted. We all looked on and prayed for a cure!
Days and weeks went by while Robby’s blood count was zero. He was in a sterile environment and was very limited to visitors. It was about a month when finally his counts began to come back. We were so happy! Eventually then we were able to bring him home. At home, he was also limited to visitors as his blood counts were still very low. He enjoyed his time at home with his brother and sister. He also kept up with his school work. At his point, he was never able to eat much so we were giving him TPN.
We celebrated Christmas with his grandparents, and that night he came down with a fever and was really weak and not feeling well. We called to the hospital and they told us to bring him in. While in the hospital, they did a bone marrow aspiration and told us the cancer had come back and this time, it was stronger then ever.
The next day, we were set up to bring him home one last time. We were given all the equipment and medications that he would need. We had many visitors which was so nice to have everyone’s support. We could of never gone through this journey without the love and support of all our family and friends.
I remember one of the nights, the house was pretty full of people and our friend asked Robby if it was too much for him and his reply was “no, it is good for my mom and dad”. He was always so concerned about everyone and always put us first.
Three days after being discharged home, he passed away. December 29, 1994. He was such an inspiration, and taught us all so much about life. Not a day goes by that we don’t think about him and wonder what it would be like to have him here with us.
What ways did you cope?
It was devastating to have my child be so ill. I guess I just did what I had to for him, my husband, and my family as the days went by. I did take a leave of absence from my job so that I could take care of him. Looking back on it, this was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I tried to be strong for him and my family. I would be lying if I said I was always the strong one.
What advice would you offer someone who is a caregiver, family member, or friend of the patient?
Cancer is very scary. I would say to stay strong and surround yourself with people who love you. Let people help you in your journey. I think it is important for your family and friends to know they are loved and appreciated.