by Enzo’s Dad
He stands nearly two feet tall and weighs in at thirty-five pounds of lean, fibrous strength. His eyes are dark brown and project the wisdom of a battle-stricken Marine. His hands and arms bear witness to pain from which most adults would cower. His head is slick and bald with a sheen. His birth name told his story before he was battle proven: Enzo, from the Italian meaning “to conquer.”
Enzo is two years old. He has the heart of a warrior and a smile that will make all of your worries seem trivial.
He was growing into a fit, happy, aggressively curious two-year-old, always striving to get laughs with his actions. Enzo’s big brother, Bryce, who is nineteen years old and currently in the United Sates Marine Corps, watched him during the summer before leaving for boot camp. With Bryce gone, Enzo was a little lost, but quickly adapted by wanting to explore the outdoors.
One of the few words he spoke at that time was “outside!” Like his father and brother, Enzo was drawn to exploration and adventure. He hiked three miles of a five-mile hike into Muir Woods –– a trail riddled with crossings, downed trees, flowing water and hills. What a fit, little guy!
A month after turning two, three weeks after this momentous hike, pre-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) declared War on Enzo. Traveling through his bloodstream, leukemia was determined to initiate his destruction.
Its first attack was on his ability to walk, in disguise as a twisted ankle. Thriving on its success, leukemia now masked itself as the flu. Again, it hid itself from the doctors and moved on to causing a persistent bloody nose and gums. Finally, this enemy that fancies itself a secret agent was exposed.
What a frightening time this was to see my little angel being attacked so aggressively. Emotions filled my body and mind: an anger so intense that the Devil himself better stay clear of me; a humbleness that brought me to my knees, begging for mercy; a helplessness that caused me to lash out at the known and the unknown.
The battle was staged at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco. Upon our arrival, a team of doctors was prepped, donned in facemasks with the world’s best tactical equipment, training second-to-none and ready to take on this cowardly assailant. I didn’t know exactly what was in store, but as a father, I was not prepared to see my youngest dressed in battle gear, in the form of smocks, facemasks and IV’s.
They let me carry Enzo into the battlefield –– a small child’s surgery center. He was hugging my neck all the way there. I can still remember his cold, strong, little arms and how it made me feel, like I was still his protector. It took all I had to hold back my tears for him. I truly just wanted to stop at the gurney and weep like a child.
In the surgery room was a muscular, male nurse that had a great command presence about himself. The kind of guy you would want to battle with now and have a beer with later. When we talked, there was a positive respect for each other. It made the hand-off of Enzo easier, knowing that this nurse was going to be part of the fight.
Four hours into the war was a wild ride that ended with Enzo in the recovery room. He was so out of it. Truly experiencing battle fatigue. His eyes were rolling into the back of his head as he went in and out of consciousness and wasn’t sure where he was. I tell you this with a heavy flow of tears… to pick him up and have him call me “Daddy,” despite his lack of visual recognition, that is a love that I will always remember. I instantly had to sit down, as I knew my legs were giving out. Not from fear, but from his simple hug and that word “Daddy,” confirming I’m still his protector. An affection that every person should experience.
It’s only been twenty-nine days since the declaration, but Enzo has battled well. It was well scripted and we were informed of all the risks and percentages of potential hazards. He is still shell-shocked from nine whole blood transfusions, five platelet transfusions, three injections of chemo to his spinal and cerebral fluid and an arsenal of medication. The first stage of this battle, known as “The Induction” has changed this adventurous, energy-filled tornado. I was not ready to see and feel this transformation.
Little did leukemia know, it picked on the wrong Warrior. I am proud to announce Enzo has moved from “The Induction” stage of the War to “The Consolidation” stage. He had a biopsy of his bone marrow last week and the results showed Enzo is winning this battle! He is still on the battlefield and not out of harm’s way as of yet. He still has to go though many more stages of chemo and medications, but as of now, he is eliminating this enemy.
I write this for all Cancer Warriors and parents of children with leukemia. Stay positive! Your ability and strength is so inspiring and motivating! Battle well, let your beautiful bald heads shine and never give up!
Randy Lavasseur is a Deputy Chief of a federal law enforcement agency in the San Francisco Bay Area. He loves his family and hates cancer. He wants all Cancer Warriors to be known for their courageous battles and perseverance.