Andrew Stark was born in 2008 to the proud parents of Julie and Craig, and he has two loving older sisters, Charlotte, and Emily. Andrew was like most kids his age, going a 100 miles and hour and no slowing down unless you caught him. Then in 2013 Andrew began kindergarten. Oh, the joys of dropping your kid for the first day of the rest of their life. Kindergarten was a whirlwind for Andrew, well that is until mom noticed something different about Andrew.
After beginning kindergarten, Julie started seeing more bruises on Andrew than usual, as well as being tired all the time. But Andrew was playing soccer, doing gymnastics, trips to the lake so who wouldn’t be worn out from all that? But, unfortunately, it was not the trips to the lake or the soccer games that were causing the brushing and the lethargy. It was something the parents would have never dreamed of, Cancer.
14SEP13 Andrew received the diagnosis of High-Risk T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). Treatment began right away. Andrews treatment called for chemotherapy and cranial radiation for the remainder of 2013 and into the first part of 2014. Andrews body reacted well to the treatment and by the start of first grade in August of 2014, Andrew was in remission.
As the school year began all seemed to be going well for the family. But late September, Andrew began having severe headaches and nausea. Of course, the parents took Andrew into to see the doctor right away. While at the doctor, Andrew received a lumbar puncture. The results came back from the puncture, and they were not good. Andrew had relapsed. After being told that the best chance of survival was a bone marrow transplant, the parents knew that remission is where they wanted their son. But that meant the chemo treatments again. But to receive the bone marrow, Andrew had to be in remission.
In December 2014, the most unlikely of donors would surface. Andrew was in remission, and they verified that his sister Emily was the perfect match for the transplant. So off to Boston the family went to visit the renowned, Dana Farber. The operation went well, but the transition did not. In January, they had a biopsy of the marrow, and it confirmed another relapse. The parents just didn’t know how much more young Andrew could take. But he is Andrew strong. So back to the hospital they went for a three-week stay.
This three-week stay was the most horrific time for the family yet. It was not sure that his body would accept the chemo to allow him to be in remission to receive the marrow. But once again Andrew showed the world what it meant to be Andrew strong. The chemo was successful so back to Boston and another round of marrow from his brave older sister.
This time the treatment for the marrow transplant took on a different shape. Andrew had to complete an intense conditioning phase; then he underwent cranial radiation a second time, total body irradiation, and chemotherapy. His immune system had to be completely shut down so that his sister, Emily’s cells would take over. The day that he received her cells will be a day the family always remember. It was 20MAR15 when he got the life-saving cells from his sister.
In April, Andrew was allowed to go home. The two older sisters, Emily, and Charlotte were grateful for their kid brother to be back amongst the rest of the family. The family is all together now, and they are much closer since experiencing all of the misfortunes.
Andrew is in remission, but there are limitations. He is unable to be around many people other than his immediate family. He is allowed to play outside with a friend or two, as long as everyone is healthy. His body is starting over, so he has to develop his new immune system and he is susceptible to catch any germ floating around. And in five years, if all stays well, Andrew will be considered cured. It will be tough to hold this young man down, but Andrew has been able to handle the ups and downs so far. Mom and Dad believe that he will get through this with flying colors. Because he is their baby, he is Andrew Strong.
So on this day 09JUN15, I saddle up to ride for a young man known as Andrew Stark. But to others he is known as Andrew Strong, the hero who has battled cancer not once, not twice, but three times. And he has come out an embodied solider, wiser than most. But what would you expect from a man who is Andrew Strong? It is an honor to ride in your name Andrew. May your day be blessed, and your future be bright. I know on this day that I get to represent a real hero that lives among us. Keep living life on your terms young warrior. Godspeed, Ken.
If you would like for your child to be honored as the Hero or the Angel of the day, please email Ken at email@example.com
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