Meet our young warriors

Meet Lillian – Leukemia Warrior

“NCCS is a tremendous blessing for people when the world is crashing in around you.” – Patricia, Lillian’s mother

Lillian never got sick. Never had a cold. Not even a runny nose. She was the ‘healthy child.’ Until she wasn’t. Just before Lillian turned 2, her mother Patricia began to notice strange symptoms. In a matter of a few days, veins in Lillian’s chest looked darker than normal, and her face appeared to be swelling. Over-the-counter recommendations from a nurse friend did nothing to help.

Thoughts raced through Patricia’s mind – could Lillian have been bitten by something? Was this an allergic reaction? Could she have ingested something that’s causing these reactions? Consulting with the family pediatrician, Patricia recalls the doctor trying to remain as calm as possible while urging an immediate trip to Nemours Children’s Hospital near the family’s home in Florida. Lillian had an obstruction in blood flow. This sweet little girl was in serious, worsening condition.

Lillian was rushed to the hospital. After several hours, a series of white coats entered the room. After only introductions – ‘We are the Oncology and Hematology Specialists’ – the feeling set in with Lillian’s family that nothing would ever be the same again.

X-rays showed she had a tumor that spanned nearly wall-to-wall in her chest, and was growing up into her neck, choking her trachea, esophagus, and carotid arteries. Her heart, lungs, and air flow were compromised. Swelling in her face was growing by the hour, eyes barely able to open, blood restricted from her head. After a few days in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), Patricia and Stephen (Lillian’s father) braced themselves for news they weren’t sure they could handle being said aloud. Your child has cancer. Specifically, Lillian was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoblastic leukemia, an aggressive cancer that turned their entire world upside down.

We know that with such a diagnosis, the treatment itself is only half the story. Complications from treatment and side effects mounted: immune system suppression, blood clots, major organ damage, loss of motor control and brittle bones are just some of the horrific consequences that Lillian endured in the months following her diagnosis. Financial and emotional hardship hit this family in a profound way, including a lack of employment during the pandemic, relocation to a new city and being homeless for a time. The stress of financial pressure, along with caring for Lillian and her two older brothers, was crushing for Mom and Dad. But the family, amidst swirling uncertainty, continued to put hope above fear. “Fortunately, our church, our family and friends, and organizations like The National Children’s Cancer Society stood beside us,” Patricia expressed.

With support from our compassion donors, The National Children’s Cancer Society (NCCS) has walked alongside Lillian’s family, providing <travel assistance> and educational and social support as they navigate the world of childhood cancer. Patricia pours out her gratitude for supporters of the NCCS: “We are not sure anyone could have done this alone, and we cannot imagine having to survive this season without the love and support of others. NCCS is a tremendous blessing for people during times when the world is crashing in around you and helps shoulder some of the day-to-day struggles of food, gas and bills. The relief provided is unquestionably a blessing and miracle.”

The ongoing support of NCCS donors means everything to Lillian, and children just like her as they endure an unimaginable journey. Because of our compassionate donors, the family can focus on restoring Lillian’s health and staying strong, staying positive and staying together.