INCourage is an organization that my family and I hold very close to our hearts and we are so thankful we are able to help other families whose lives are being affected by childhood cancer. Before my son was diagnosed I was completely naive to how many children are diagnosed with cancer and really had no idea how many sick children there are.
My son was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia a month before his third birthday. Our lives turned upside down instantly. It was terrifying roller coaster ride that we couldn’t stop. Our son spent four months inpatient at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis for his first three rounds of chemotherapy. He then spent two months inpatient at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital during his last round of chemotherapy, followed by a bone marrow transplant. After he recovered we moved into a hotel for three months to be close to the hospital.
From the moment he was diagnosed we were supported by our family and friends, our church, our community and by complete strangers. We learned the true meaning of “it takes a village”. Everyone came together to help us get through this difficult season in our life by praying for us, taking care of our other two young children, bringing us meals, donating toys and activities to keep our son busy, while also donating gas cards and money for groceries. It was a humbling time for us. We thought we were a self-sufficient family, but this experience taught us that we can’t do life on our own. We needed help.
INCourage is an opportunity to be the “help” that another family needs. Our son is in remission now and doing wonderful! Because of our village we were able to focus on our son when he needed us most. Our lives have been completely transformed because of this experience and our faith has been made stronger. We are so thankful for the good that has come from our trial and I hope, through our organization, we can provide encouragement and make a difference in another family’s life too.
In the fall of 2012, my son had spent several weeks not feeling himself. After multiple doctor visits and no relief, the nurse practitioner opted to order blood work and a CT scan to begin ruling things out. Like many other parents, I knew my son was ill and continued to be persistent, but to be honest I had not prepared myself for anything to be wrong. The day is so vivid to me; one moment I was working and the next I was hearing my son’s name, brain tumor, and we were lucky his motor skills were still intact. The CT scan revealed a plum size tumor pushing up against his brain stem. Without a moment to process, he was transferred by ambulance to Riley Children’s Hospital where the next day he underwent a 13 ½ hour craniotomy. The hours felt like days, but we were surrounded by dozens of family members and friends that never left our side. Days following his surgery, the pathology report came back. Just weeks before my son’s 4th birthday, he was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma, a form of Brain Cancer. We received so much information and met so many doctors. One week after his craniotomy, we were able to take him home to continue healing while preparing for the long road ahead.
We traveled to Bloomington, Indiana where we resided for six weeks. He received daily sedation and radiation. We stayed in an amazing facility designated for families receiving Proton Radiation and met incredible families fighting the same fight. Each family’s loved one was in a different point of their journey, but we all provided a certain comfort to each other. We still stay in contact and have lifelong friends from these relationships. After the completion of radiation, we returned home. He completed his chemotherapy and inpatient stays back at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. I reflect back to when we first learned about my son’s diagnosis; I was a mess that day I left work. I was so worried about my son and felt guilty I was not with him. I was terrified of the unknown, but the very instant the ambulance arrived and I saw my son I became stronger. He was smiling and told me about the cool things in the ambulance.
Being that sweet boy’s mother is a blessing. I am elated to say that my son completed his journey in January 2014. My son has never ceased to amaze me with his strength and resilience. I am grateful that, to this day, he is thriving. During the ups and downs my son endured over those 15 months, we received so much support from family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances and even complete strangers. At my most vulnerable time in my life, we were shown such kindness and I knew we were not alone. I found comfort in seeing the outpour of love my son continuously received, I am still forever grateful.
Over the years I have met many families impacted by childhood cancer. Being a parent to a child fighting cancer or a sick child, in general, is not for the faint of heart. At times, you feel helpless, continuously humbled, and always chasing faith. My hopes with this organization is to spread awareness about childhood cancer and bring our community together to support local families during such a trying time. I also have high hopes to be able to contribute to research for childhood cancer. My son has always had an “old soul”, empathy for others, and huge heart. He is my inspiration and why this organization is so close to my heart.