He is a Fireman, a Soldier, a Pilot, a Dinosaur, a Knight, a Pirate, a Big Game Hunter and would only answer to “Oinky” for quite some time. He is a 3 1⁄2 foot, forty pound five year old perpetual motion machine. He is without a doubt the toughest person I know, and he’s our son Eli. He has Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, but it certainly does not have him.
On January 9, 2007 Eli woke with small petechiae on his face, and a few hours later we were sitting in the Emergency Room at Scottish Rite. There we met Dr. Lew and Dr. Watt; further testing was ordered, and soon Dr. Watt was explaining our son had leukemia. A little while later, Dr. Lew explained where we were and what would need to happen over the next few days. Over the next several days, time simultaneously stood still and moved at the speed of light. Peggy and Eli settled into a room at the Aflac Cancer Center and his long journey began. We tried our best to explain the unexplainable to our daughters, Emily and Hailey. Meanwhile, Eli underwent more testing, exams and evaluations in the first three days than most of us will experience in a lifetime. Peggy never left his side; she has been his Mom, Nurse and Bodyguard. Almost overnight she became an expert on the medications, treatments and protocols our son would face.
During his month long stay on the Aflac Cancer Center ward we met many families. Some were like us, new to the community and still trying to figure out how to get through the day. Others were the veterans who appeared to have a firm grip on the situation. Volunteers from CURE Childhood Cancer were some of the first “non- medical” people to meet with us. I came in one day and there was a big blue sack, a white Teddy Bear, a sweat shirt and a small library of reading material. CURE volunteers had spent time with Peggy explaining the different programs and support CURE could provide. They answered our questions, but the greatest thing was, at a time when it seemed everyone had something to say, they simply listened. They brought food for the staff and families and let us know we were not alone and that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
Throughout all of this, our daughters, Emily and Hailey, have been remarkable. Peggy and I have tried to ensure they lead a normal life and not become “the other kids.” There have been times when their plans were changed or canceled in order to meet the needs of their brother. They have been there at every turn in the road, rarely complained and have shown a level of maturity far beyond their years. It’s my hope that one day they will understand the positive impact they have had on Eli. There is no way I can express in words how proud I am of them. They have been the quiet heroes of our family. From his initial hospital stay through our now monthly clinic visits, I’ve watched in amazement as the physicians, nurses and staff work tirelessly to care for Eli and the other children entrusted to their care. Eli’s leukemia is now in remission, and he is well into the maintenance phase of his treatment.
Since leaving the hospital in January 2007, he has only spent one other night in the hospital. Most days a stranger would have no idea he has leukemia. Almost anywhere you look in and around the Aflac Cancer Center, you will see CURE at work. It can be seen in the form of the training our physicians and nurses receive, in support of various support programs, or sometimes, best of all, you see their sticker on the snacks in the infusion room. Faith, family, friends, events and occurrences all have and will continue to “shape” Eli’s character throughout life. At five years of age, he is already very strong in his sense of faith and family.
As of this writing we are 802 days into Eli’s journey and have about 365 days until the first steps of his journey are over. In the beginning, I would not have even considered looking so far into the future. However, now it is a foreseeable reality, there is LIGHT and LIFE at the end of the tunnel. I look forward to seeing the man our son will become.
The proud father of Emily, Hailey and Eli