When it's 35 degrees in Tahoe with fresh powder accumulating by the hour, a 4-1/2-year-old boy should be overjoyed.
My son Theo wasn't. He was miserable.
It was Presidents' Day weekend. I was with my wife Anne, Theo and his younger brother Hugo in South Lake Tahoe, about 200 miles from our home in the Bay Area. That Sunday while inner tubing on the cottony snow, Theo was cranky, lethargic and complaining of neck pain.
Normally a jovial kid, he'd been a bit sick in recent weeks with an occasional fever, but nothing of notable concern to our pediatrician. Back home two days later, Anne took him to the hospital for an X-ray.
The results were frightening. Theo had a giant mass in his chest that was pushing on his heart and lungs. A CT scan pointed to the nightmare scenario: acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
It was the hardest night of our lives. Theo was despondent and struggling to breathe on his own. He had to wear a mask that covered his entire face, making it difficult for him to talk. He was sent to the intensive care unit as soon as a bed was ready.
Theo's lungs were in such a vulnerable state that the medical staff didn't think he could handle the anesthesia needed for a biopsy. It was a good 72 hours before we started to see improvement.