We are so excited to introduce you to this little sweetie... Zoey! She is so little to be faced with such trials, but through it all her and her family have remained positive and her cute mom, Danielle, even organized a fundraiser for childhood cancer research from their hospital room.. they are amazing!
We are a small military family - Dan, my husband, myself (Danielle), our 2 1/2 year old daughter, Zoey, and our crazy Siberian Husky named Kona. My husband has been in the Amy for 9 years now. He was set to deploy to Afghanistan in January of this year, but things didn't exactly go as planned. We were stationed at Ft. Drum in upstate NY and when he received word that he would be deploying we decided that Zoey, Kona, and I would go down to spend the year with my parents in FL while my husband was gone. So we packed up our entire house, put everything in storage, and on Christmas leave drove down to FL. The plan was for Dan to spend Christmas leave with us (2 weeks) and then return to NY to deploy with his unit after the New Year.
A few days after Christmas everyone except my husband fell ill with the flu. The worst of it lasted a few days and then everyone was starting to get better - everyone except Zoey. She seemed to almost be getting worse. So on New Year's Day we took her to urgent care. They confirmed she had the flu, but sent us straight to the ER at the local hospital because Zoey had an extremely elevated heart rate and didn't look well. They were waiting for us at the ER and rushed us straight back to a room and started doing tests. We were told that Zoey's blood counts we so low that she was basically in critical condition and that not only did she need a blood transfusion right away, she also needed to be transferred to the nearest children's hospital. The nearest children's hospital was Nemours Children's Hospital in Orlando, a little over an hour away by car. Zoey and I were transported by ambulance while my husband followed us in our vehicle. When we got to Nemours, they took her straight up to the PICU. Not too long after we arrived, an oncologist came in. Of course I panicked! An oncologist?! Why?! He explained that we needed to find out why Zoey's blood counts were so dangerously low, there could be something going on, or it could just be because she was so ill with the flu. The next day Zoey had a bone marrow aspiration done and later that night, the oncologist all but confirmed that Zoey had leukemia. We had to wait for the official results to come back the next day, so we were still holding out hope that he was wrong. But the next day, January 3, 2013, it was confirmed that she did have leukemia - ALL or acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Your world definitely crumbles, you never expect this for your child. We weren't sure what this would mean for us. She started treatment the very next day with chemo administered into her spine and had a port placed at the same time.
Thankfully, Zoey was classified as low-risk and started responding well to treatment right away. She went through her induction phase of treatment beautifully and is in remission as of February 6, 2013. But we still have a little over 2 years of treatment left. We decided to participate in a clinical trial being done by Children's Oncology Group and funded by CureSearch. She was randomized to a slightly different treatment plan than what is the current norm, and it involves lower doses of chemo. So she only has 3 phases of treatment: induction, consolidation, and then maintenance. We are currently half way through consolidation phase and Zoey is still doing pretty great. She takes chemo every day at home (like a total champ - no fusses or fights), and will have a total of 6 hospital stays for high doses of methotrexate through this phase. The second hospital stay was a little rougher on her and she suffered some awful side effects (vomiting, mouth sores, not eating and drinking), but bounced back pretty quickly.
Thankfully, my husband has been able to stay with us this entire time and the military has been pretty great about it all. He is no longer going to Afghanistan and just got word that the compassionate reassignment he applied for was approved. He will be assigned to a recruiting station in FL and will be able to stay here for at least 1 year. We have already decided that no matter what happens after that, Zoey and I will continue to stay in FL until her treatment is complete. We feel that it is very important for Zoey to stay at the same hospital with the same doctors and nurses throughout treatment, even if it means a possible separation due to the military reassigning my husband. We feel like we are in great hands here. All of this is a lot for a little 2 1/2 year old to take on, and I wish that I could take her place. And looking back on the months leading up to her diagnosis, I curse myself for not realizing that something was wrong sooner. But I try not to dwell on it too long because I know that I need to continue to be strong for her so she can keep fighting, and keep doing well. Zoey is a strong little fighter and we know that she will continue to respond well to treatment. We are so very proud of her!