Saving Becca, continued

Before she begins school, Sue and Bob meet with Himelstein to discuss Becca’s prognosis. If she can stay cancer-free for the coming year, her chances of long-term survival improve dramatically, he tells them.

“If the cancer comes back in the next year,” Bob asks, “what then?”

In such a scenario, the doctor tells them, there is no hope for Becca. If the cancer returns, there will be nothing they can do but watch her die.

“Let’s take it a day at a time,” he says kindly, seeing the panic in their eyes. “For right now, there’s no sign of the cancer, Becca’s feeling stronger every day and looking better than we’ve seen her in months.”

“So we won’t really know for another year whether Becca’s out of the woods,” says Bob. His gut feels like a clenched fist.

“This still isn’t over, is it?” says Sue.

In truth, it will never be over. Even if Becca never suffers a return of Ewing’s sarcoma, she is exposed to a lifetime of medical maladies brought on by its treatment. Cancer will continue to change her, to change all of them. It has already altered how the Piccinini family defines itself, their dreams for the future, their friendships, what Sue and Bob whisper about in bed at night after the house is quiet. It has changed how their neighbors interact with them and each other. It has changed their church community, Bob’s business. It has changed the certainty they once felt about being able to protect their children from harm.

At every twist in this journey, they’ve mined their souls for the strength to endure these changes. If continuing to do so is the price for Becca’s presence in their lives, if that is what it takes to keep their family whole, then so be it.

AS THE INDIAN SUMMER TURNS golden, Becca embraces life at central Bucks East with a gusto that delights her parents. She joins the swim team, the marching band, throws herself headlong into her classes. She drops her AP history course for a less challenging one and struggles mightily to catch up in math. She is never still, and rarely home.

“She’s back,” Sue marvels to herself more than once, listening to Becca sing along with the car radio the way she used to. She and Bob bite their tongues when they want to warn Becca to slow down, get more rest, take life slower. She has already missed so much, they tell themselves. Let her enjoy herself.

Sue surprises the family by calling the Make A Wish Foundation, known for sending families of kids with cancer to fun destinations like Disney World. She wonders if Make A Wish could plan a trip for her family, too. The foundation is thrilled to help and honors Becca’s destination request: a 10-day, all-expenses-paid trip for four to…Hawaii! The trip is scheduled for the week of Thanksgiving. They’ll celebrate Becca’s 15th birthday there.

On October 30th, almost a year to the day since the family’s somber trip home from Johns Hopkins, they throw a party at Joseph’s Catering Hall in Warminster, to celebrate the end of their year from hell. They’ve invited everyone who helped them through it: out-of-town family members, neighbors from Gloucester Drive, those who cooked for them, Becca’s teachers and tutors, the church minister and fellow congregants, Becca’s friends.