Meet Willow – Leukemia Warrior
“Our journey has just begun, but the amount of support that we have already received makes it that much easier. I can spend time with my children without the constant worry, burden, and stress of bills. My family appreciates all that you do! Thank you!”
Although born healthy, Willow was continuously getting sick. This was quickly realized to be no ordinary illness as she had a high fever that lasted for almost two weeks. Her mother, Samantha, was frightened and confused and took Willow to the emergency room in hopes of getting some answers. It was painful enough to watch her daughter go through this, but the feeling of hopelessness quickly set in when she had no answers for her daughter’s pain. The answer she was looking for would quickly become the news she dreaded the most as she was told her 2-year-old daughter had been diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Willow’s diagnosis came as a shock to her family, and there was no time to process what their lives would look like moving forward. Her treatment needed to start almost immediately. As a single mom, Samantha had to juggle taking care of Willow while also making sure her sons, Silas (age 11) and Maliki (age 5), were taken care of, too. The stress, anxiety, and fear that she felt were uncontrollable.
Samantha would no longer be able to go to work because she knew the most important thing was being there for her daughter. She was being faced with her hardest obstacle yet, and she questioned how she was going to keep a roof over her family’s head while getting her daughter to the best treatment possible. Although Willow was too young to comprehend her mother’s conflicts, Samantha had to put on a courageous face for her other two children to ensure that everything would be okay.
Willow’s treatment center was 30 minutes away from where her family lives. Without an income, Samantha worried how she would get her daughter to treatment and reached out to The National Children’s Cancer Society (NCCS) for help through our Transportation Assistance Fund. For the first time in a while, Samantha felt a sense of reassurance knowing that she had the NCCS to help her with one of her biggest stressors. She felt like she could breathe again, and she could shift her focus to giving Willow her undivided attention.
Samantha knew Willow would remain in good spirits throughout her journey. She shared, “Willow is an active, beautiful, and brilliant little girl. She is full of life and lights up the faces of everyone around her.” Her contagious personality has not changed throughout her treatment. Although the treatment for her cancer is grueling and strenuous on her little body, Willow gives all those around her a glimpse of hope as she continues to spread joy to those around her.
Willow’s brothers are old enough to understand that something is not right and that Willow is sick with more than a cold or flu. As tough as this journey has been, Samantha has remained strong for her family and is grateful that Willow has handled treatment so well. Even at her darkest times, she has reminded herself to be strong for her family. Her sons have been great and Willow continues to be her happy self and plays with them.
Going through this journey is not easy by any means. The mental toll a childhood cancer diagnosis takes on a parent can be debilitating. Thankfully, she had a compassionate NCCS case manager by her side through it all. Our free publication, The Other Side of the Mountain: A Parent’s Guide to Surviving Childhood, provided the necessary tools to help her navigate through the different phases of Willow’s treatment and ease some of the emotional strain.
Because of Willow’s treatment plan, Samantha and her family have a different routine than they were used to, but they have managed it well. Willow has remained strong and handles treatment as well as any kid her age would.
With each passing day, Willow has continued to be her loving self. Samantha shared that Willow’s strength is back, her energy is high, and she is playing with her brothers as if nothing has changed; something Samantha is very grateful for.
Samantha shares, “Our journey has just begun, but the amount of support that we have already received makes it that much easier. I can spend time with my children without the constant worry, burden, and stress of bills. My family appreciates all that you do! Thank you!”