“Life came to a screeching halt,” says Vivian, when talking about the day her then 11-year-old daughter was diagnosed with T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma. “Sydney went from riding horses every day and activities with her Boy Scout troop to being out of breath on very short walks. We were so involved in our children’s activities, with busy school and work schedules, and then this overwhelming thing called pediatric cancer came into our lives.”
Sydney became very sick, very quickly. Within a few days, she was diagnosed, had surgery to insert tubes to drain fluid from around her heart and lungs, and started her more than two-year regimen of chemotherapies. Although her regular chemo treatments make her extremely nauseous, Sydney finds comfort in her animals and the crafts and games that Ms. Katie, the ASK Child Life Specialist, brings for her when she’s in the ASK Clinic.
“I describe ASK as a support group for the entire family,” continues Vivian. “Rich, the ASK chaplain, is so kind and although we’re not religious, he’s always so positive and uplifting. Nurse Alison helped Sydney understand exactly what would happen when the tubes in her lungs were removed and got her through that traumatic experience. Robin, the ASK Survivorship Coordinator, gives me hope for a day when Sydney will be finished with treatment and just living her life, and it’s amazing to know that she will be with us to help guide Sydney into adulthood. Alma, the ASK Educational Coordinator, has been invaluable in helping us integrate schoolwork into Sydney’s chemo schedule and working with the school system to determine what’s most important in ensuring she stays on track. These folks seem to know exactly what we need before we even ask for it, which is remarkable.”
Sydney and her family especially enjoyed movie night at the Diamond. Vivian was grateful for a night where they could forget about Lymphoma and just be a family at a fun event. They also were “blown away” by the Holiday Drive-thru party where there were gifts for everyone in their family. “I feel like the volunteers and staff of ASK wrap a warm blanket of kindness around us, and every time I’m on the ground, someone just sits and listens to our story and talks me through it. They remind us to focus on one day at a time – not the past or the future, but to live in the right now.”
“I still wake up and think, ‘Is this really happening? Does our daughter really have cancer?’ It is really happening, but I know that Sydney is consistently getting better and that we will never be alone in our fight. ASK will be with us every step of the way, and I could never express enough gratitude. I truly don’t know what I would do without their support.”