By David Quisenberry
You are 29 in a new city. Building a financial services practice, which basically means cold calling people all day, going to networking events, and hoping someone will say yes to your pitch of entrusting their retirement success to you. Every day is grueling, exhausting; full of people, rejection, and capitalist quotas. You are married and have a young daughter who loves to play outside, kick balls, and play with simple puzzles at 18 months. As summer approaches, your wife tells you she’s expecting. And then it happens.
Your daughter stops wanting to run and kick a ball. She consistently spikes fevers, and gets cold sores throughout her mouth. You take her to the park and all she wants to do is swing. Swing for hours and hours and hours. Your wife thinks something is wrong. You think she’s just getting a childhood sickness at school or from playing with other kids and will shake it. She starts to have bruises on her shins. You think it’s from bumping into things. Life is full, busy, filled with stress. You refuse to believe something more serious is going on with your daughter. Your wife takes her to the doctor, who advises to give it time and it will go away.
You drive across town, pulling into the pediatric emergency room on the east side of the river. Check in and wait. After a while they invite you I nto a small inside closet of a room. Light blue furniture, privacy curtains, glass door to mute the sound. Your daughter screams and fights the barrage of tests like a detainee at a black site. You are the guard watching it all, holding her down, trying to believe in a greater good and purpose, but being psychologically mauled. The tests end. They keep asking about her skin color. It’s faded to yellow so slowly, you have a hard time recognizing the difference. They leave you and your family and say they will be back in a while with preliminary results from some of the tests but that they are confident it’s not a joint infection because of the ultrasound.
They come back. This time there is a doctor with them. Such a strange thing to receive news so heavy from someone you’ve just met.
You are sitting as a family on the white hospital butcher paper. You hold your wife’s hand, bracing for what is to come. You’ve done a dance like this before when you were in high school with your dad. You know how to close the walls, go into lock down, care for those around you, and barricade your emotions.
“Preliminary tests show an unusually high level of white blood cells. We’ll know more in the morning when the tests completely come in, but 98 percent of the time when we see levels like this of lymphocytes, it is because the patient has Leukemia.”
Your wife begins to cry, to shiver, to sob. You squeeze her hand trying with every ounce of your being to convey, she is not alone. You are with her in this. You’ve never encountered Leukemia before, and don’t really know what it means in terms of outcome percentages. You hug your daughter. Kiss her forehead. Scared of what lies ahead: the dance.
David Quisenberry is the proud father of two daughters: Astraea and Verona. Astraea survived ALL Leukemia and will be celebrating two years of completion of treatment this September. She loves animals, nature, princesses, and Lamborghinis. Verona loves to sing and dance and challenge her older sister. David is a financial planner and community volunteer. He chairs the board of directors for The Dougy Center and serves as secretary on the board of governors of City Club of Portland.
Editor’s note: I met David when he joined the board of The Dougy Center. As friends, we share a love for books and a soft spot for minor-league hockey (he actually played in high school).
Tomorrow: “Lucky Number 13” by Tammy Ellingson