Val Marshall's cancer journey began in May 2009 when her son Addison was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia. A visit to the family doctor for what they thought was a simple high school football injury turned out to be so much more.
Inspired by her son's strength and hope, Val strives to be a voice to help connect other parents on this journey. Her series shares insight into her life as a mom of a typical teenager who just happens to be fighting leukemia.
Our youngest son decided to play a belated April Fools' Day joke by telling me that he was scared because he had never witnessed petechiae on his chest before (pin dot pools of blood under the skin that become evidence of crashing platelets). As I dropped my fork, he walked over to me and said with a smile, "Or it is just spaghetti sauce." Dark humor at its best.
Mr. Addison is looking forward to prom with little worry that his counts will cooperate. He knows that Dr. Wells is "the man," and will make every attempt to alter the schedule and be a wish grantor.
Addie created a video on Facebook, asking Sarah to prom, that showcased him dancing on top of his car while it was moving with his friends at his side. Never mind that his body had virtually no white blood cells or platelets present. I didn't see a chapter on this side effect in the "How to discipline your child with cancer" playbook. If I hurt him, I would get off with a jury of my peers, wouldn't I?
Let's not forget cancer
Last weekend I participated in the Katy Relay for Life. This year, six MD Anderson cancer moms created a team called Moms on a Mission, to walk and increase awareness of childhood cancer. This is not a sorority anyone wants to join, but I feel a kinship with these courageous and occasionally outrageous moms.
I rescued myself and played the cancer card, as I declined to stay the night walking. These fine and compassionate women comprise a tribe of comfort as we understand all too well the life-changing events cancer elicits. Addie conveniently "forgot" to pick up his purple shirt and participate in the "survivorship lap."
Several moms hugged me with assurance that this was a time to let Addie make his own decision and laughed, as he is known for blazing his own trail. He is determined to be a normal teenager and held close to Sarah as they walked and laughed; you have to admire her for coming on this strange date night. And you can't help but admire a kid determined to show cancer the disrespect that it deserves.
To see the many luminaries surrounding the track in honor and in memory of loved ones is a testament to how cancer plays no favorites. We thrust gold ribbons toward everyone we saw, in hopes of emphasizing the need for pediatric cancer research. Most people are genuinely surprised that there has been only one new drug developed in the last 20 years for pediatric cancer.
At the conclusion of the relay that earned $241,000, we walked arm-in-arm toward the rising sun in hope of another tomorrow with the promise of a cancer-free world for our children.