I am grateful that I had Nelly in my life, even if only for eight short years. Nelly was my heart, my soul, my shining light.
When he was four, Nelly started getting blinding headaches and started having trouble with his one side: it appeared weaker and he had trouble moving it. It startled us (husband Manny and myself), so we took him to our pediatrician, who then sent us directly to the Emergency Room.
To be sent to the ER directly from the doctor's office couldn't mean a good thing. Manny and I were alarmed. We didn't know what was going on with our boy; we were so scared!
After undergoing extensive tests, it was discovered that Nelly had a tumor on his brain stem. They would know more once a biopsy was performed, the pediatric neurlogist informed us.
The biopsy was done the very next day. When the results came back, the news was not good. Our little son had brain cancer. Chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and possible surgery were the choices we were faced with. The expected outcome: maybe six months. Our son, our beauitful heart, was dying.
At first, Manny raged at God, but I chose to hang onto the tiny sliver of hope that I felt in my heart. Maybe Nelly would do well with the treatments. Maybe a miracle was in there and Nelly would be healed, I surmised. I had to do something to keep me (and Nelly) strong.
As Nelly grew sicker and sicker, I chose to stay by his side. I became his personal caregiver. I did everything possible to help him. I even contacted the Make-A-Wish Foundation: Nelly's fondest wish was to go to the Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas, and to meet HIS team, the Dallas Cowboys, up close and personal. We had to give him something to smile about.
Nelly saw his dreams realized on his fifth birthday. He was in The Zone: the child was in his element. He not only met most of the current players (including his hero, Tony Romo), but some of the past legends: Troy Aikman, Michael Irving, Emmett Smith. They posed for pictures, signed a football for him, gave him official team merchandise, and just thoroughly enjoyed being around this shy, quiet boy with the luminous dark brown eyes and dimpled smile.
We took lots of pictures and even did a video that I posted onto my YouTube channel, for all the world (and my family and friends) to see. It was a magical moment, one that we would remember for the rest of our lives.
By the time Nelly was seven, he was bedfast. He could no longer walk and required care. I devoted myself to him, but Manny, even though he stayed by me, remained distant. He had a very hard time trying to accept all that was happening to Nelly, and it truly bothered me. I was terrified that he would somehow leave us, but somehow, he never did, thank the Lord.
Nelly had lots of questions by this time. He knew he was sick and he knew that he was different from his friends. He asked why he was always in and out of the hospital and why doctors had to hurt him. I didn't hold anything back: I explained everything to him in simple details, to where a child could understand, but I told him that God was with him, always, and that He would never, ever leave his side. And I told him that I would never leave him, either.
Nelly continued to endure more treatments, more surgery. The tumor was still there, pressing on his spinal cord, but some of it was removed, but not all of it. To do so could mean certain death. It was that serious. He was paralyzed and suffered from ongoing headaches and dizziness. Sometimes he would get so dizzy he would pass out.
Doctors were amazed at Nelly's courage and determination. For a little boy who was told he wouldn't be here in six months, he was now seven, three years into his diagnosis and still going strong. I had never seen anything like it. It was as though God, Himself, was orchestrating our lives, especially Nelly's. There was no other explanation.
Then came the horrible day when Nelly had a seizure. It was a bad one. An ambulance was called, and Nelly was rushed to the hospital, where doctors and nurses fought valiantly to save him. It wasn't to be. Somehow during the reviving process, Nelly vomited and he choked.
They could not bring him back, no matter how hard they tried. It was on Christmas morning.
It was the worst moment of our lives. Instead of opening presents, as any happy little boy should, Nelly got his greatest gift: a miraculous healing and a forever home, to be with God, Jesus, and the angels, forever and ever. His long road of suffering was finally at a merciful end.
Manny and I grieved. Oh, how we grieved!! You cannot imagine the scope and the enormity of what Nelly put us through, yet I was glad that we had him for as long as we did. He lived four years longer than what doctors first predicted when we first got the diagnosis. It was truly a divine miracle.
That dark time in our lives opened a closer, more intimate, deeper relationship with God. It took this tragedy of monumental proportions to bring Manny and I back together again. Even though Manny wanted to leave my side, he knew he he had to remain with me, to be there for his son, of which I was very grateful, and Manny and I remain together now.
We have since had our second child, another little boy we named Marco Nelson, in honor of our firstborn. That way, a piece of him could remain alive in the brother he never got to know. Marco is now three and the spitting image of Nelly. He is absolutely beautiful!!
I used to cry tears of pain, sadness, and despair, but now I cry tears of joy! All I have to do is look at the chubby-cheeked, sweet, angelic face of little Marco Nelson, and give praises of thanksgiving to an almighty God who planned this. If it were not FOR our strong faith in Him, I don't know how we could have possibly endured the long road of suffering and fear that Nelly put us through. Yet He brought us out of the lion's den and onto the mountaintop, stronger and more victorious than ever!
God gave us the opportunity to love our first child and see us through. Even though we mourned for a while when Nelson Emmanuel died, He allowed us to have him in our lives and cherish each and every day with him, in good times and in bad. The tragedy brought Manny and I together and He rewarded us with another beautiful little boy who is as healthy as can be.
We couldn't be more blessed!!
I am currently working on Nelly's story, in the hope of bringing comfort and peace to other families who might be facing the exact same thing that we did when Nelly had cancer ... and even after his passing. All proceeds from my forthcoming book (due out by spring of 2012 if I get the manuscript in on time; I am just a few pages shy of completion!) will benefit children's cancer organizations.
Well, I have to go. I have to get Manny's breakfast ready before he leaves for work by seven, and make breakfast for Marco when he arises to greet the day. He's lying in his bed, tangled up in the bedclothes, snoring softly. He looks like a mini Manny when he sleeps: he is adorable, and I can't help but to smile!
Until later, take care and God bless; I hope you got something out of my story! Even in times of darkness and despair, remember this: God is with you, ALWAYS; He will NEVER leave OR forsake you! Give thanks to Him, in ALL things; if you trust in Him, He WILL bring you out of any fire you might be facing!