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Inspirational Stories



Florida is my happy place. It's where I've vacationed for over three decades. And when my husband and I had kids, it became our family's happy place too. Schedules are forbidden on vacation. We tell time by the sun as we sit on the beach with our feet in the sand, watching the tide roll in and out. While on vacation, we celebrate birthdays ― and they're done up big ― because that's the only way that we know how to celebrate birthdays ― BIG.

When we celebrated Addison's fourth birthday in May 2019, we thought her big-ticket item would be the giant, stuffed unicorn she had been asking for. . . not leukemia. Our beach vacation was forever changed when my husband rushed our comatose daughter to the local emergency department with a fever of almost 105. What we were told was likely heatstroke was actually our worst nightmare. Our daughter's tiny body was being ravaged by cancer, and she was actively dying in a hospital over 1,000 miles from home. Her pale and bruised body was a visible sign of a bone marrow that was overtaken with leukemia.

Initially, I was told by the doctor that despite irregular labs, this was likely an infection. Repeat labs were ordered while our unconscious daughter was transferred by ambulance to the nearest children's hospital. "Worst case scenario? Cancer. But that's not what this is." Whether that doctor knew that this was cancer or not, I'll never know. But I knew. I knew that our child was not okay. I saw the bruises, the skin that just wouldn't tan despite hours at the beach each day, the swollen lymph nodes, and the raging fever that wouldn't break. A mom knows.

"Why don't you sit down?" These words seem simple, innocent even, at baseline. But when they come from a doctor, they aren't. They are indicative of an upcoming blow that will forever change your life. And for future reference, sitting does nothing to cushion the blow.

We spent 11 days in a St. Petersburg children's hospital before we were able to return home and transfer Addison's care to our local children's hospital. The road to remission was long and painful, but Addison was declared cancer-free at the end of September 2019. After enduring two more years of treatment, Addison was finally done in September 2021; she had swallowed her last chemo pill. Our cancer days were over, and it was time to relearn how to breathe.

Days before Addison's seventh birthday, bags were being packed as we prepared to head to Florida again for birthday celebrations. The week before we were to leave, Addison was to have her monthly check-up in the clinic. But bruises were starting to appear. Again. Her skin was looking pale. Again. I knew what was happening. Again. I was reassured that as an almost seven-year-old, bruising was normal. Her pale skin was likely my trauma talking, everything was fine. But during that routine check-up in April 2022, our world came screeching to a halt. Again. Leukemia was back, and our other children were suddenly being swabbed to test their DNA as potential bone marrow donors for Addison. Our baby was being catapulted toward a bone marrow transplant. Her days of chemo had returned, but this time it was even more intense. Twelve radiation sessions were ordered, and the race was on to completely destroy each and every one of Addison's cells in her bone marrow. Nothing was to be left behind. While our other children were not a match to be Addison's bone marrow donor, a donor was found. A little boy born just four months after Addison was her match. In September 2015, this boy's mom made the decision to donate her son's cord blood, The Lord used that cord blood, set aside almost seven years earlier, to save our daughter's life. In August, Addison underwent a bone marrow transplant. As those precious cells dripped into her veins, her hospital room was filled with people celebrating her second birthday ― the day that our family was reborn without cancer.

No one should have to go through a bone marrow transplant alone. It's a terrifying and isolating experience. Our family was blessed to go through Addison's transplant with an army surrounding us. In God's perfect timing, we were admitted for 40 days alongside two other families whose children had transplants just days before Addison. On paper, our three children should not have received transplants at the same time. Diagnosis days were years and months apart, our roads were each different, but there we were. And it wasn't an accident. Not only were we admitted to the hospital within days of each other, but we were neighbors on the ninth floor of Children's Hospital, right next door to each other. A support system that was three families strong; we cried and laughed and celebrated and prayed together.

Outside of those hospital walls, we had a group of people from The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) loving and supporting us through our darkest days. There were calls and texts to check in on us, offers to bend over backward to help our hurting and terrified family, birthday celebrations planned to soften the blow of spending the day in a hospital, and people who worked hard to bring joy to Addison as she so desperately longed to be a normal and healthy kid who was back home.

Our family has been blessed through leukemia. Twice. Yes, we have celebrated several birthdays in the hospital instead of in our happy place. Yes, we have lived in isolation for years. Yes, we have missed out on years’ worth of plans that we have been forced to put on hold. But God has truly blessed us with an army to support and love and pray us through our darkest days. We didn't do cancer alone, and other families shouldn't have to do cancer alone either. There are blessings, joy, and hope, even in the midst of cancer, and we are grateful for the people who helped us to see them.

In September 2023, 13 months after the transplant, Addison and the two other children who went through transplants with her rang the bell. They rang that bell together. Hand in hand. Those three warriors are living testimonies to God's goodness. They are the reason that funds are necessary to come up with better treatment for kids because pediatric cancer isn't as rare as people think.

Written by Addison's mother.

leukemia Dare to Dream