Jane Roper

Writer. Blogger. Hater of Olives.

The Day I Found Out Clio had Leukemia

Clio in the ER, shortly before I got the news. This photo haunts me.

I wrote a piece about the unforgettable (and unforgettably awful) day we found out Clio had leukemia. It’s up over at Babble, if you want to check it out. Excerpt below:


I will never forget the look on the doctor’s face just before she told me that my five-year-old daughter had cancer.

I had taken Clio to the emergency room that morning for a 104.5 fever — the culmination of two months of vague symptoms we hadn’t been able to pin to any diagnosis: occasional bellyaches, pain in her hips and legs, frequent fevers that would spike in the late afternoon and be gone by the next morning.

Two visits to the pediatrician over the previous month and a complete blood count had revealed nothing. In fact, I’d felt rather silly after her blood work came back normal: I had convinced myself — with help from Google, that enabler of hypochondriacs and worried mothers everywhere — that Clio had leukemia. But the only thing her lab work (done three weeks earlier) had suggested was a virus.

Now, here we were at our local ER. The doctor, a forty-something woman with a warm smile and a face that looked somehow familiar (maybe she looked a little like me?), took blood for testing and noted that Clio’s liver felt enlarged. She ordered X-rays and an ultrasound, and we ordered a grilled cheese sandwich for Clio to eat after the tests were done.

Forty-five minutes later, when we passed the doctor on our way back to the exam room after the ultrasound, her smile was gone. She sat behind the nursing station with a folder in her hands, watching us intently as we passed. Her eyes went first to me, then flicked down to Clio, who was chattering happily, clutching the tiny stuffed bunny she’d been given by the X-ray technician as a reward for being brave.

I can picture the doctor’s expression as we passed with total clarity, and yet when I try to describe it, words fail me. Anxious? Pitying? Thoughtful? Sad? None of them are quite right. But I know what I thought when I saw it: Something is wrong.

Read the rest.




  1. Beautiful piece, Jane. And that’s a beautiful picture of Clio.

  2. You are a badass Jane. Chin up. I’m not a praying kindof gal, but my thoughts and best wishes are with you every day. Great writing too, of course.

  3. Dear Jane, I have always followed your blog and your wonderful stories with your wonderful twins. When I first read about Clio’s cancer I couldn’t stop crying and I made my husband cry too… But now I’m positive that you and your beautiful family will deal with this situation with the humor, the grace and the courage you always show. My thoughts are with you, Alastair, Elsa and Clio. Lots of love from Greece!

  4. Jane,
    I haven’t read your blog in a long time and was shaken when I came across it today. I love your writing; I feel we have a similar sense of humor and would be friends if we didn’t live 3,000 miles away from each other. (How creepy is that? Aren’t you glad I live in CA!? geeeez) I have 3 year old twin girls and have loved following your adventures with Elsa and Clio.
    Reading this piece broke my heart. I couldn’t imagine discovering one of my twins having cancer. They are at the phase where they say that the other is their best friend. What strength you have, lady. I know you are strong simply by raising twins whilst enduring depression. I second Jan up there: you are badass.
    You and your family are in my thoughts. I send love, strength, peace and courage to you and yours.

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