Tuesday, August 11, 2015

For Elissa & Dylan

I hate having to write these posts. I especially hate having to write this because it's a child. I feel like I shouldn't know any kids with cancer- it should be that rare. Unfortunately, now I've personally known two. Hopefully I've met my quota. I used to think everyone had a limit on bad things happening. If life was too good, it had to balance out with something bad. But then if life threw you really bad things, it had to be balanced out with good things. Unfortunately, sometimes, some people, get more than what one would consider their fair share of the awful.

When anyone is diagnosed with cancer, you feel helpless. What can you really DO, beyond the usual of meals, gifts, and your time? You can't make someone get better. I don't cook and I don't have a lot of free time. What I can do is write, and I have a huge network.

I met Elissa and Dylan three years ago at a Newcomers & Neighbors kick off party in town. We started chatting and it turned out Dylan and Ethan share the same birthday. The boys became fast friends. I came over for a play date one day and Elissa shared her story with me.

Everyone has a story but her story is just a testament to her strength. Elissa moved to New Jersey from California to start a great new life with her husband. She got pregnant and had Dylan. Then a few short months later, her husband, in his early 40's, was diagnosed with cancer. He passed away not long after that in August 2009. Dylan was seven months old. I remember thinking that I don't know how she did it. She wasn't near home or her family, in a new town, with a young child. She was young herself- I believe she was only twenty-eight when her husband died. Too young to know that type of tragedy. There aren't really even support groups for such young widows whose husbands die of surprise illness. Yet, every time I saw her, she was friendly and smiling, just doing her thing. Working, traveling for fun, for work, alone and with Dylan. Just chugging along, living life, a little team of two. Dylan and Ethan were in similar activities, so I'd see Dylan at swim class, at the park, and at the pool. I'd catch up with Elissa and everything was always "good". She's just not someone who wallows or complains.

The diagnosis came this week. I immediately realized I hadn't seen her in a few weeks. I thought she was just busy with summer stuff like we had been. I asked Elissa how this diagnosis came about - just because it seemed so unfathomable. This is what she said:

Basically Dylan started walking funny and really slow about a month ago. At first it was just annoying, but when he stopped running and swimming I got worried. So, I took him to the pediatrician. They ordered X-rays and blood work. The blood work came back suspicious of leukemia. We were told to go straight to the pediatric ER for further testing. There, they confirmed the diagnosis of Pre B cell acute lymphocytic leukemia. Which is supposed to be the "best" type to have.

Of course, when you have a child the same age, same gender, it's an immediate punch in the gut. First of all- how many times have we all pushed off odd behavior or complaints from our kids? I know we do! Two summers ago, Ethan was complaining his mouth hurt. He was a terrible eater so we assumed he was just trying to get out of eating. Turned out he had coxsackie. We felt terrible after that diagnosis. But we still don't jump at every headache or stomachache. Kids act weird and they love to complain. So you pick & choose what you really take seriously. It seems crazy, unfair, and I don't know what, that it could be leukemia.

It's not about any of us with our kids, but it's that Dylan is now everyone's kid. It could be any one of our kids with this diagnosis. You just want to do anything and everything you can. You need to believe this is beatable. You feel like if there is a big enough army sending positive thoughts and energy, giving enough money, making enough meals, etc, it's all going to be okay. Well, Elissa & Dylan, your Glen Rock army is huge and we have arms branching off us that go to infinity and beyond. Everyone is rooting for you and there are plenty of people who want to be there for you every step of the way through your fight.

Please donate and/or share their GoFundMe page to help with whatever costs come up to help Dylan. It's hard enough to be a single, working mother without this burden too. Any contribution will be hugely appreciated. I will update with any further information on Dylan's condition and anything that can be done for them.


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