All in all, life was pretty normal up until April of last year. I had never had any major crisis within the immediate family, or the extended family. In April 2016, that would all change. My (at the time) 4-year-old daughter got a fever. We did not think anything about it, for there was a virus going around that everyone was getting. The fever went away in a couple of days, so life was back to normal. The next week, it came back- but this time she complained of her right leg hurting and walked with a limp. She had been riding her bike the previous day, so we thought nothing of it. Two days went by, the limp was worse, and the fever was still there. I noticed that her foot began to turn outward, so I knew we better take her to the doctor. At the doctor’s office, the doctor watched her walk down the hallway and immediately the expression of her face totally changed. She said we needed to go to the hospital in Radford for x-rays and blood work- which we did. We received a call the next morning from the doctor, at which time she told us that they found something in the blood work and we needed to immediately go to the oncology ward in Roanoke. I had no idea what oncology even was, but my wife knew and started crying. Shocked- but remaining calm- we took her to Roanoke. They were expecting us, and once again took some more blood upon arrival. Within the hour we were told that she had Leukemia- and cancer that is born in the bone marrow, and then makes its way out into the blood. But there are several types of Leukemia, one that is treatable, the other, that is not as treatable. They would have to send the blood to UVA to figure out which type it was. We would not know anything until the next day.

 

That was one of the longest nights of my life. We had a room in the hospital, they were prepping her for surgery (to install an access port under her ribs so the chemotherapy could be pumped directly into her heart), and we were given an overload of information on what would happen next. We were warned on the numerous short term and possible long term side effects of the treatments, and signed a book of paperwork. We praise the Lord that the next day the diagnosis came back as Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)- this is the treatable type. After her surgery, we began the treatment process. Life has been a whirlwind ever since. Every week we have had to go to Roanoke for treatments. Every week I watched my daughter hooked to machine that pumped multi-colored fluids into her body. The doctors and nurses covered in suits and heavy-duty gloves so the chemotherapy cannot get on their skin- yet, this is what goes into her tiny body. I have lost count of all the spinal taps that have been done. These are done, because the cancer cells can hide in the brain, and in order to have the chemotherapy reach the brain directly they need to go through the spinal column. We have had to give her shots at the house, and watch her react to those treatments. It drained the life right out of her, while taking away her once beautiful hair. No doubt, you can imagine how tough this has been to witness.

 

Praise the Lord, in December she finished all four stages of treatment. We are now in what is called the maintenance phase. This consists of her take chemo pills everyday, and monthly checkups (with more spinal taps). This phase lasts until June 2018. We are not out of the woods yet, but all has been going well. During this time we have to monitor her closely as the smallest virus could potential be very dangerous during this time as her immune system is weakened.

 

I would just like to also say- events like the mud run (or other events that raise money for children with cancer) really do make a difference in the lives of people. My family can testify to this. It is more than the money. It gives the feeling that you are not alone- that others sympathize with your struggles. This encourages you to keep going.

 
Within the hour we were told that she had Leukemia- and cancer that is born in the bone marrow, and then makes its way out into the blood.
 
 
The doctors and nurses covered in suits and heavy-duty gloves so the chemotherapy cannot get on their skin- yet, this is what goes into her tiny body.
 
We are now in what is called the maintenance phase. This consists of her take chemo pills everyday, and monthly checkups (with more spinal taps). This phase lasts until June 2018.

So on behalf of Avery, and my family- THANK YOU for what you are doing. It is appreciated beyond words. 

 

- Jeff Shawver

(Avery's Father)