Happy 5th Birthday, Chase!

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Chasing away Leukemia. That is what Chase has been doing since he was a one month old baby. His mom had brought Chase in for his shots and the doctor didn’t think Chase looked right. They did an ultrasound and his liver and spleen were 3x their size.

It took 15 times to draw blood because his blood was a big clot. Finally, his parents found out that he was 98% filled with cancer blasts and his white cell count was 1.8 million. The doctors had never seen that high of a number in an adult! The doctors didn’t feel that Chase was going to live. An emergency christening was performed and that night his mom held her baby tight. She woke up to him screaming and that was when she knew they were in for a fight.

Chase’s family went from Syracuse to Albany to be close to The Melodies Center that would treat him. They stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Albany, which has been like a second home to them through the years.

Chase has endured mouth sores, fevers, infections, and illnesses. He had chronic C-diff. He couldn’t tell his parents what was wrong. He just cried and cried. They had to permanently move to Albany. Two years later Chase ended his treatment. The family could finally get a chance to lead a normal or at least simpler life. 6 months later as his mom tried to go back to work, Chase went to the doctor for anemia, which in itself wouldn’t be big deal. For a child who has had cancer, turned out it was. Chase’s cancer was back.

This time he had to have a bone marrow transplant. Chase knew what was going on and in his mind his parents were putting him through this. He didn’t understand why. The hardest part about being a parent to a child with cancer is knowing that they will have pain and further sickness to heal. You have to sit back and watch. It’s only natural for a child to take it out on their parents because of unconditional love, but that doesn’t make it any easier to take.

This family has been separated, transplanted from place to place, Chase has suffered so much dealing with horrific side effects such as Graft vs. Host disease. Everyone suffers with him, because it’s so much to bear and witness. I can’t imagine the emotional rollercoaster that the whole family has gone through over and over again.

I have seen cancer tear families apart. It has broken marriages. It has ended lives. But Chase’s family stands strong amidst the rubble and battle. No it has not been easy, but they have done everything needed to be done in order to do the best for their little boy. That may not have been what has been best for everyone else, but they did it because that is what family does for each other, no matter what.

The community’s emotional support has also been outstandingly positive. Everyone who  helps this family, shows up big time. It doesn’t matter what it is. The need to ease this family’s pain and show Chase and his siblings that the world can be a great place is strong.

Chase proves this every day. Today is his birthday. He has shown that with persistence, prayer, lots of love, and amazing medicine, he is a miracle. He is a beautiful and courageous boy who is here to make an even bigger impact on this world than he already has. Happy Birthday, Chase! May you have tons upon tons of more happy days!

There’s Nothing Like Girl Time!

There’s nothing like having a couple girls come to where you live with bags of goodies and lots of hugs.

There’s nothing like four other girls arriving with balloons and laughter and even more hugs!

This was the scene at the Ronald McDonald House (RMHC) in Albany on Sunday. Naya was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoblastic leukemia in December 2013 and is still in treatment. Recently Tim Stowell of the Green Drakkoman Foundation posted on Facebook that Naya and her family were being evicted because their landlord refused to fix and address some code violations that negatively affected Naya’s health. They were homeless and Naya was in the hospital.

Doing what they do best, Debbie Ross and the RMHC of the Capital Region welcomed Naya, her 5-year-old sister and parents into their home. The stress that was reduced because of this was priceless. Imagine having a child with cancer and no home to go to.

Katie Collins, the co-president of Nick’s Round Table, saw Naya’s post and immediately went into action. She wanted to do a fundraiser for her and brought it up at their monthly meeting. Leaves of Life were added to a tree that Erin Doescher drew with incredible skill for a $1 donation. The group raised $153.00. By the way underneath those leaves are the most intricately drawn branches and a heart.

Maya’s Tree of Life–Front Row L-R: Mackenzie & Naya; Back Row L-R: Katie Collins, Lauren Sawicki, Liz Sibson, Maddy Healy, Kendra Sisco, Becca Abel

Next, Katie reached out to Tina, Naya’s mom, to arrange meeting the family and spend time with Naya and her sister, Mackenzie. She reached out to the board and including myself, 7 of us went to share some girl time.

Naya opened the door before we could even ring the bell. She anxiously waited to meet Katie Collins and Lauren Sawicki who were just as excited to meet her. They came bearing gifts like a huge donut pillow and a purple hat and scarf that Naya didn’t take off and best friends necklaces for Naya and her sister.

Then Kendra Sisco entered with brightly colored balloons, followed by Maddy Healy, Becca Abel, and Liz Sibson. The girls were ecstatic! With enough energy to light all of Albany, the girls headed outside, which gave their mom a little breathing room and time to decompress.

Naya holding one of her balloons and vibrantly wearing her new hat and scarf!

What struck me the most about Tina was her positive attitude and deep gratefulness. She told me that Nick’s Family Hope Bag was the first connection to anyone when Naya was diagnosed. She read the brochure about Nick, who had the same exact diagnosis as Naya. Instead of feeling dread, she felt like she was being taken care of and comforted. She knew they would be all right.

Lauren and Naya

Katie with Mackenzie and Naya out by the playground

Liz and Naya goofing around in the playroom!

So many people and foundations have come stepped up to help this family stay together. The love that filled the room yesterday can only heal. The beauty and synchronicity of reaching out and giving because you can’t imagine doing anything else is what makes this world a fantastic place to be.

Until the next girl time, Naya!

If you would like to support any of these foundations and Naya directly, please visit these websites:

Team Naya Ninja in Training You Care Fundraiser

Nick’s Fight to be Healed Foundation

Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Capital Region

Green Drakkoman Foundation