CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - September 25th: Victoria Martinsen crosses my mind often. She was unforgettable. Her mom and dad miss her every day and to think Victoria would almost be 17-years old right now is heart-stopping.
Her mom, Elizabeth, is a gorgeous writer putting out all kinds of beautiful words on Instagram this month (@sassieryou), and I thank her so much for letting Victoria be part of “30 Kids. 30 Stories. 30 Days.”
Victoria was one of my first #MollysKids, before #MollysKids even had a name. Before, even, social media. We followed her journey on WBTV News; I’d be in the hospital with her and her family, and to this day, Elizabeth remains one of my favorite people in all the land. All the following is written from Elizabeth herself.
Victoria. My daughter. 12/02/02-11/01/09.
She was a regular happy-go-lucky, effervescent, opinionated, curious little 4-year-old when diagnosed on January 17th, 2007. Recurring complaints about tummy aches, unexplained fevers, and a funny limp led to the discovery: A germ cell tumor in her abdomen. By the time we knew it had already spread to her lungs, had eaten & collapsed one of her vertebrae and she had a baseball size tumor by her tailbone. In an instant, our world turned upside down. There we were, Nils and I, with a newborn, a 5-year-old and now a 4-year-old with cancer.
The first days were filled with tests and procedures including a biopsy that she lost so much blood from, she spent the night in the ICU and we weren’t sure if she would make it.
It’s crazy how one week we were talking about when the baby might sleep through the night and the next we were wondering if our daughter would live to see her 5th birthday.
She had a colostomy because the tumor was blocking her bowels. A port was added so that she could receive chemo. We got a crash course in nursing. So many fears, hopes, dreams, “what if’s” rolling through the mind. It’s like being on an out-of-control speeding train.
She spent two years and ten months in treatment. I never met another child with her type of cancer… it was that kind of rare. She learned the ropes; how to make it through colostomy bag changes, hickman bandage changes, anesthesia for scans, eventually she could hold still enough for some procedures (like chest radiation) so she didn’t have to be sedated.
IV-poles became substitutes for scooters, nurses were like pseudo moms, Child Life Specialists like siblings.
Through it all she sang, visited babies at the maternity floor window, rode the wagon through the halls with her baby brother. She did all those things in between chemo, surgeries, radiation, relapses, stem cell transplants, hearing loss, a stroke and a brain tumor that ultimately ended her life. It was a short life but a full one. That experience leaves us forever changed, empathetic to the plight of those still in the fight hoping a cure is not out of their reach.
**NOTE**: These 30 September #MollysKids stories highlight REAL kids in our community who battle. The stories are meant to be shared and educate about pediatric cancer, as they have every September since 2013. This year, I also encourage you to comment below with a message. Not to me. Please don’t write me. Write the family. In this case, Elizabeth. Consider it like sending a handwritten card, only easier. She’ll read your words. Promise. She won’t think you’re a stranger. In fact, you’ll represent hope. Let her and Nils know you are present. The Good, the Bad and the Always Real. Right? Every post. Every day. Thank you.