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 much more.
Inspired by her son's strength and hope, Val strives to be a voice that connects 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.
It's a bitter sweet time as Addie will be graduating on May 26 and will begin his new chapter at Texas A&M in August. When you have faced the world of relapse, you tend to fear the end of treatment and the hospital family that has caught your fall for 1,095 days, but who's counting?
Jack and I were invited to an MD Anderson fundraiser in West Texas a couple weekends ago and we reflected on the support system we've received as parents these last three years.
Apparently, other families have felt this love as well. Polo on the Prairie is in its 26th year and has raised millions of dollars for cancer research because one family has modeled what MD Anderson teaches us with hope, science and the never-ending quest for a cure. Jack commented that cancer begins with a single cell and grows into a life-threatening disease, but one family has grown into a major contributor to help end the suffering of human kind.
Footprint of compassion
I became emotional when the polo match began, I looked over the crowd on a beautiful spring day and thought of all the patients in the hospital unaware of the quiet love of this event.
When I rewind the events of the last three years, I can't help but see the depth of compassion throughout the massive footprint called MD Anderson.
I have included a few special pictures that illustrate a day in the life for Addie at MD Anderson. The first is a special picture of Addie and the "book lady." She stays in shape by pushing a heavy book cart and trying to ignite the love of reading to kids who are sick, angry and just plain sad.
Addie has teased her for years that he reads enough for school, doesn't have time to read, yadda, yadda, yadda. She never gave up and, bingo, one day he accepted a book called "The Hunger Games," which turned into reading the entire series. His comment to her: "The books are better than the movie!" She has taught me the power of never giving up and smiling along a path without end.
At first blush, the other two pictures look disturbing as Addie is being prepped for his routine spinal tap. This sweet anesthesiologist kisses the forehead of her pedi patients as they become unconscious for the procedure.
This brings new meaning to the phrase, "Always kiss me goodnight." I ask her if I could share this picture with Congress on my next trip to Capitol Hill. You can see by her radiant smile that her passion and love for her profession shines like an August afternoon in Texas.
Talk about being kissed by an angel.
Finally, the Anderson Network works endlessly to identify and execute programs with a single goal: empower patients and their families to follow a roadmap of hope, perseverance and becoming a part of the solution. I pray that our family can carry the baton respectfully and continue the fight of "Making Cancer History."