Feeling at Home, Miles Away From Home

A Mother’s Day letter from one of our families to our supporters:

As I sit here tonight, gazing at the wall-mounted television in this room that has become our home-away-from-home, my mind is racing. Bright and early tomorrow morning, our 17-year-old son has chest scans that may once again change our lives forever. Scan anxiety is real and I know tomorrow I will be a wreck.

Although my son and I are hours from home and our family, I still feel like I am home. I close my eyes and count the blessings that the Ronald McDonald House has given us.

My wife and I started this journey, along with the rest of our family, close to three years ago. Our beautiful 15-year-old boy went from being a normal looking teenager to a strangely deformed boy overnight. On Monday, he had a little swelling in his cheek. When he woke up Tuesday, the tumor slid out from behind his cheekbone to appear as a baseball-sized mass. A quick call to his dental specialist assured us that this was just an infection and to enjoy our trip. We would be back home soon enough.

We arrived back home in Parkersburg, West Virginia and Billy was taken for a quick cat scan the first day we returned home. The next morning our family doctor made the call no mother ever wants to hear – “Something is wrong, “ said Dr. Newland calmly. “Billy is having bone loss in his face.” Within hours, we were rushed into the emergency room at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. By midnight Billy’s braces were removed in the ER in order to have an MRI of the mass. The next morning, doctors transferred Billy to the 12th floor cancer unit. We had to break the news to our son – life, as he knew it, would never be the same.

After four nights on the hospital couch and using the public showers, another parent suggested we get a room at the Ronald McDonald House. Two days later, I gave in and we accepted a room. In fact, I think I am sitting in the same room right now.

Do you know what the biggest expense is for a cancer family? The biggest expense is providing yourself with your basic needs while your child receives treatment. After a while, it is more stressful to your teenager for you to be in their room all the time. Hotels are expensive. Renting an apartment simply is not feasible.

The Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio has been our saving grace. Front desk Mike cheerfully calls me when he has a room for us for scheduled visits. The night desk staff knows Billy by name and does not question his weird obsession with grabbing snacks at the front desk every time we walk by. If, at the last minute, Missy or I have to trade places on the trip, the office knows and understands that not all families are the same.

Over time, the uneasiness of being away from home has subsided. I no longer require GPS to find the hospital. I also usually remember to have a bag packed and ready. As a cancer mom, you could leave home at a moment’s notice.

Right now Billy’s treatments have slowed down. He just finished up six months of weekly chemo treatments that we had hoped stabilized his cancer. Tomorrow we find out if he has to have more treatments or can live “normally” for a while longer.

RMHC has provided my family with so much. This all-inclusive Home has given us a place to play games, a workspace so I can “work from home”, a room to cry in, a place to just enjoy the silence of the night. Most importantly, RMHC has provided my family with hope for a better future. Hope for more tomorrows. Hope that we can make it through this crazy journey called life.

While one of us stays here with our son, the other is home raising our other children without the added pressure of financial distress. The only thing almost as heart wrenching to a mother watching her son battle cancer is knowing her other children are home without her. RMHC puts some of this distress at ease with its support and home-like atmosphere. Without a doubt, our other children at home will not go without because one of their mothers must be here.

Even during the COVID pandemic, RMHC always provided warm meals and clean rooms. Payment is never expected when we leave. We know we can donate but there is no pressure. We do not know what tomorrow will hold. We do not know when we will be back or if we will be back. However, we do know, without a doubt, that RMHC is here for us.

With love,
Jeanna and Melissa Plumly
Billy, Maggie, Aryon, Travis, Geneva and Gianna