Today is America’s Independence day. The day we celebrate our freedom. We enjoy backyard barbecues, shooting off fireworks, and usually an extra day off from work. As you celebrate our independence lets not forget what was sacrificed to gain and keep that independence. Many lives were spared for us to be able to live the life we live. In a day in age where it seems like everybody, even our own are against what America was founded in, we celebrate independence from British rule. And today we celebrate our hero Zoe.
Zoe is our hero today. She was born in 2010 and is a very strong willed individual. She gets that from her mom, Julie. Zoe has two younger sisters, and they are the best of friends. They despise being away from one another so when Zoe would go away to the hospital for days upon days; they had to learn to survive without each other.
December 2013 Zoe began showing some odd symptoms and wasn’t feeling good at all. She had a very painful, swollen, hot elbow. She received a diagnosis of nursemaid’s elbow. Two weeks went by, and Zoe was back to her normal self. But Julie, wasn’t too sure about the diagnosis. In January 2014, the symptoms began again at the same time they did in December. This time mom, Julie, took extensive notes of the symptoms Zoe was having. She recorded every ache, pain, and temperature taking. She took note of the foods Zoe ate, and the hours she slept. Mom wanted to make sure that the diagnosis was correct.
Because of mom’s meticulous note taking, Zoe’s pediatrician was able to determine that Zoe’s condition was beyond his expertise, and he referred Zoe to a specialist. Symptoms included her swollen, hot, red joints, low-grade fever, pain beyond comprehension, loss of appetite, lack of sleep, and her skin was turning grayer by the day. In February, Zoe and mom met with a pediatric specialist who warned Zoe and Julie that the source of the pain could be leukemia. Then four days later, the call came in, “there are some cancer cells in your child’s blood.” So, off to the hospital they went, and within 48 hours, Zoe was receiving her first treatment. She was on chemo, had a port-a-cath in place, and was learning how to take medicines five times a day.
The treatment took a toll on Zoe. She didn’t want to be confined or restrained to do all the treatment. But mom and Zoe came together with their strong wills and got the treatment done together. The first seven months of leukemia treatment are very hard, very harsh chemotherapy demands, and they can cause a child much grief and pain. Zoe was fortunate to miss out on most of the side effects of the chemo. She had ten visits to the ER because of fevers of 100.4 (even the common cold can cause death for a child whose immune system is suppressed). But, only four of those visits resulted in extended stays. The longest of which was 11 days long. Zoe is now in a phase of treatment called Long Term Maintenance, during which, she receives smaller doses of the same chemo she received the first seven months. The idea is that taking this chemo for this specified amount of time will prohibit leukemia from relapsing.
Zoe has been in remission since April 2014; however, as many cancer fighters know, remission is only a time marker and does not indicate the end of treatment. Soe’s cancer began when she was four. Three months later she was swallowing pills like an adult. She will continue to take those pills (between seven to ten of them) every day until next May. These pills include 2 different chemotherapies and a steroid. The rest of her medicines work to combat the side effects of the chemo and steroid so she can live a happy life.
Before cancer, Zoe was going to start ballet classes. Before cancer, Zoe’s favorite activity was digging in the dirt; playing in the sand. Her favorite thing about herself was her hair, which has fallen out twice now. Zoe’s favorite thing now is going to the beach, which she has done only once in her short life. Zoe is homeschooled, loves her life, and doesn’t know her life to be any different than anyone else’s. She accepts what comes, makes the best of it, and loves. Zoe and her sisters craft, play board games, lay on the couch a lot, and play outside whenever they can. They long to spend more time with friends, but that time will come. Treatment will end eventually, and the family is hopeful and happy for life.
So on July 4th, the day we recognize our countries independence and honor those that have, those that are, and those that will serve our country, I would like to honor Zoe by riding a day in her name. Zoe is a hero. She is battling a fight that no child should have to battle. I am amazed by your strength, and your families love and devotion. They are there to support you every step of the way. Today I would like to provide a small sense of relief for the family and say “I will take care of it today”. Hopefully by honoring Zoe it will bring a smile to her face and allow the family to relax just for even a small moment. Zoe, keep battling, you keep fighting the good fight, and we will keep up the fight to hopefully end childhood cancer. We won’t stop until we do. Godspeed little one.