September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month. At PCFLV, we are committed to spreading the GOLD all year long. However, in September, we truly make it our mission. 30 Days, 30 Stories celebrates the children we know and love and the brave battles they fight and have fought, with their families by their sides. In celebrating these beautiful children and their stories, we hope to inspire you to join us in our mission to SPREAD THE GOLD in September and all year long!
May 23 is one of my favorite days of the year. In 2010, it was the official "end of treatment" date for my son James' leukemia and in 2016, he celebrated six years of being cancer-free! I don't think about his illness very often, but I do like to take time on occasion to appreciate his health.
I had no idea that James was sick back in March 2007. He was in the third grade and had had a rough winter, but he also has autism and cannot always express himself very well. Sometimes, a little distance is needed to see a problem. My parents had been out of town for three weeks and when they returned, my mom thought that James looked pale and that I should take him to the doctor. I brushed it off, but did ask a friend who was a physician's assistant to come over and check him out. A quick exam showed nothing wrong, but my mother kept insisting. Thank goodness! Lesson learned: Always Listen to Your Mother!
I took James to the doctor the morning of March 19, he had bloodwork that afternoon, and I got a call from his doctor at 10 pm that night telling me to take him to the hospital. Much of that evening is now a blur, but I do remember greatly appreciating his pediatrician, Dr. Mary Stahl-Levick, meeting us there and his new oncologist, Dr. Lesley Simpson, being several months pregnant. I also recall none of us being able to figure out the room's dvd player or vcr, but James knowing how to make it work. James stayed in the hospital for about 2 and 1/2 weeks initially and when he finally returned to school after several more days at home, he just walked into his classroom as if he had left it moments before. I cried.
We were told from the start that James had the "good" type of leukemia (acute lymphoblastic) and that he would get better. They even gave us an end date: May 23, 2010. Never did I doubt the prognosis and James got through the 38 months, 30+ rounds of chemotherapy/steroids, 22 spinal taps, 5 blood transfusions, 4 bone marrow aspirates, 3 hospitalizations, 2 port surgeries, one Dream Come True trip, and countless pokes as a surprising great patient. He has always been a good pill-taker, which came in handy, when he had over a dozen to take some days.
PCFLV was a great help during and after James' treatment. We've attended Chemo Circuses, Dorney Day, other events, and galas. As a single mom of three (James' twin also has autism), I especially liked the mom's spa days! Thank you so much for all the support you have provided my family as well as countless others throughout the Lehigh Valley. Getting a visit from Michelle and other moms when James was first in the hospital was invaluable for my spirits. My friend and neighbor, Lisa, arranged for someone to clean my house, long before she started working for PCFLV. The foundation is lucky to have both of them! When dealing with cancer, it helps so much to know that you're not alone.
James received a clean bill of health in May 2016, when he returned to one of his favorite places, the Pediatric Specialty Clinic. Although we still recognize a lot of the staff, there are several new faces that we don't know, since we're not there very often any more. We are so grateful for all of their help and support over the years, for truly saving James' life and thank you to PCFLV for helping us through the journey!