I hope my posts this month about Childhood Cancer Awareness have made you stop and think for just a moment. I hope you thought about the families that are in the middle of the fight against cancer now, or have gone through it and lost their children, and I hope you realized that it could happen to you or someone you love deeply. These post were not intended to be depressing. Yes, of course cancer is awful and depressing, but my hope is that you would realize this is happening all around us, and not take for granted your healthy children.
One thing about cancer is it doesn’t discriminate. Old, young, white, black, Asian, girls, boys… cancer doesn’t care. The last child I’d like to introduce you to is this adorable little girl, Raelyn. My husband and I worked with David, Raelyn’s dad, many years ago. He moved to Texas and we changed jobs so we lost touch for a while. In the meantime, he married Jenni and they tried and tried to have a baby. I don’t know all the details, but I do know they went through many infertility treatments and finally were blessed with their precious Raelyn.
Raelyn was adorable and sweet. She loved girly things, the color pink, queso (her parents called her a queso thief!), and she was a huge lover of dogs. She lived in Texas with her parents and loved getting together with her cousins to play. Life was great until Raelyn turned 2 when she was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma.
Sarcomas are cancers that develop from connective tissues in the body, such as muscles, fat, bones, the linings of joints, or blood vessels. There are many types of sarcomas. Rhabdomyosarcoma is a cancer made up of cells that normally develop into skeletal muscles. This type of cancer can start anywhere in the body, so there are no symptoms until a bump (tumor) is noticed.
It wasn’t until Raelyn was deep into treatment that Jason and I found David and Jenni on Facebook and learned about Raelyn’s illness. I followed them closely on social media, praying she would be ok. Come to find out she would have to undergo 54 weeks of chemotherapy and radiation. That is truly unimaginable, but the good news was, after all of that her scans showed no evidence of disease! David and Jenni were thrilled, but they also knew that the cancer could come back. Sadly, almost exactly one year later, her scans showed it was. At this point, the doctors gave her a 10-20 percent chance of survival. I just can’t fathom going through a year of chemo and radiation, being told the cancer was gone, and then told a year later that it’s back and even worse.
About a month after the learned Raelyn’s cancer was back, in July 2014, doctors gave the family devastating news- that Raelyn’s tumor was not only growing but was now protruding through her skin. At this point, doctors made the awful decision to stop treatment and released her to hospice care. This poor, sweet girl was only four years old and spent 2 years of her life fighting cancer. That is just not fair. That December, Raelyn gained her angel wings and went to be with Jesus. Her family was devastated of course, but felt some peace knowing she was free from needles and pain.
It has been a hard road for David, Jenni and the rest of their family, but I’m thrilled to tell you that since her death, Raelyn has given her family 2 baby boys- Boone and Gavin. They are adorable and look just like Raelyn! Of course, they miss Raelyn and think about her every day. But it helps having 2 toddlers running around the house jumping off the couch and playing like maniacs!