May 19, 2009 started out as any normal day would. I was taking my son, Tyler, to his three year well child visit at the pediatrician. Although my four year old, Haley, wasn’t due for her well child visit until October, the doctor decided to exam her as well, as there was a spot open in the schedule. Although Haley exhibited no other signs of illness, the pediatrician felt a mass in her abdomen, and we were immediately sent for a precautionary ultrasound. Later that day, the doctor called and said we needed to take Haley back to the hospital right away for further testing. A CT scan confirmed my worst fear…Haley had cancer.
Wilms tumor is a cancer of the kidney, and affects about 500 children a year, with most cases being diagnosed before the age of five. On June 11, 2009, Haley began what would end up being a 28-week course of chemotherapy. She suffered nausea, low blood counts, and the loss of her hair and eyelashes. Our family decided that if Haley had to live without hair, so would we. On July 2nd, we made a party out of it, and Haley, her dad, brother, grandpa, grandma, uncle, cousin, and I all shaved our heads to support our courageous little girl.
Haley put up an amazing fight, and on December 14, 2009, she was declared cancer free.
Although Haley beat cancer, our lives will never be the same. The anxiety ever-present as her bi-annual CT scans approach can feel debilitating. Advancements in medical research are imperative for future patients affected by Wilms, and all other pediatric cancers. Cancer is the number one cause of death for children under the age of 15, yet only about 4% of the government funding for cancer research is dedicated to childhood cancer. So parents, please take from Haley’s story that life is short. Let them jump in puddles, work later- play now! You will never again have this day with this child, enjoy it!