"I went from worrying about where to send him to preschool, to wondering if I would see him graduate high school.”
Ben was a typical 3-year-old, going to preschool and trying to keep up with his big sister, Claire. His parents, Nina and Joe, were enjoying raising their kids with the typical worries of parenthood - thinking about their education, planning family trips, and imagining their future.
In March of 2016 Ben came down with a cold. It didn't seem remarkable in any way since kids frequently get sick. He had a fever that didn't go away and seemed excessively tired. He had some bruising on odd spots around his body, but he was an active 3-year-old boy so his parents were not overly concerned.
When Ben didn't seem better over a week later his mom decided to take him for a checkup, assuming they’d leave with a prescription and carry on with life. Four hours later, on March 20, 2016, they were in ER being told that their generally healthy son had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).
“We literally woke up one day and life changed forever,” Nina describes. “Nothing in my life experiences to date could have prepared me for that shock. There are many worries as a parent, but cancer is never and should never be something you have to worry about for your child. I went from worrying about where to send him to preschool, to wondering if I would see him graduate high school.”
Ben started treatment for standard risk B-Cell ALL the day after his diagnosis. He has done remarkably well in treatment, and has been a trooper through it all. He is currently in long-term maintenance and will continue with daily oral chemo and monthly IV chemo for another two years. He is in physical therapy for heel cord tightness in his ankles, which is a common side effect from his chemotherapy drug.
Ben’s family’s life has changed in many ways.
"A simple cold now brings with it many worries," his mom shares. "Are his counts low? Will he get a fever and we'll stay inpatient? He has missed days of school for side effects and low counts - days he should have been out running around learning with his peers but we didn't want to risk him getting another cold.”
Pinky Swear Foundation helped Ben’s family with an All-Star Weekend at its partner hotel, Hilton Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport/Mall of America.
“It was wonderful! We live in the Des Moines area so it was nice to have a little weekend away in the Twin Cities,” said Nina. “The kids loved swimming in the hotel pool and enjoying the rides at the mall. And of course the toys and books left for them in the room were so awesome and appreciated, along with the gift card for gas and spending.”
The weekend came at a perfect time as Ben had been neutropenic, making him prone to infections, for a month prior. They were constantly worried he was relapsing, and had kept him at home for a month for his safety. He finally made counts the Friday they planned to leave for the All-Star Weekend, making it a perfect family getaway after a stressful month.
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Pinky Swear All-Star Story presented by Love Your Melon
Love Your Melon is an apparel brand run by college students across the country on a mission to give a hat to every child battling cancer in America. A percentage of the net proceeds from the sale of all Love Your Melon products are donated to Pinky Swear Foundation to support kids with cancer and their families.