Today’s Spotlight Story was written by Olivia’s mom, Jessica Cheek.
Looking at Olivia you would never in a million years guess that she is a cancer survivor – but a “survivor” she truly is! Olivia has made it through over 2 years of chemotherapy, countless spinal taps and bone marrow biopsies, many ER and hospital visits, mountains of medicines, more poking and prodding than all of us combined, lost all her hair… and all of this before the age of 4!
At 14 months old Olivia had what we thought was a very bad cold or the flu. We took her to her pediatrician many times over a two-week period but she continued to get worse. Toward the last half of the second week, we knew something bigger was going on because she had completely stopped walking, laid on the couch, cried whenever we moved her, had fevers that would not go down, and started showing signs of dehydration.
We went back to the pediatrician on a Friday afternoon and were admitted to the hospital. It was only a few hours before we saw her pediatrician in our room. As I held Olivia in my lap, the pediatrician explained that we would have to transfer her to Egleston that night because her blood work was showing that she had no neutrophils. Until we arrived at Egleston, we really had no idea that we could possibly be dealing with cancer, but, after many days of testing and finally a bone marrow biopsy, we had our cause: Pre B ALL (leukemia).
It was a devastating shock to us and to our entire family and friends. We didn’t have long to sit around and be sad, though! Olivia was started on chemotherapy immediately and was put into remission within a month! She remained on chemo for the next 2 years. She tolerated everything very well. I think because she was so young when she started her treatment, she didn’t know to be scared. She has a great prognosis for the long term, and we are just happy to have our sweet girl healthy again! Olivia is now 4 years old and doing great. She loves to dance and sing, and she takes ballet. She goes to preschool 3 days a week and absolutely LOVES school.
It seems like it has all been a blur since March 2005, but at the same time, I remember every single thing that has happened. Never in a million years would I have ever thought that this is how our life or our child’s life would be. I mean, who would? Olivia has been dealt a heavy load but she has carried it well. Even with all she has been through, she is still the beautiful, smart, sweet girl she was from the start. How have we been so lucky, so blessed? I find it just as easy to ponder that thought as it is to worry and wonder why Olivia had leukemia.
Only recently have I been able to not dwell on the negative question of why she had leukemia. I know that I’ll never know because there will never be a good enough reason why. I now focus more on the positive question, “How are we so lucky to have this beautiful, strong, smart, little girl in our lives?” I know it sounds cliché but we are truly better people because of her and better because of what we have gone through together.