We walked in our first Light the Night Vancouver event when our daughter Rachel was just 6 months old. Standing among supporters, survivors and those that had lost loved ones, we experienced the power of a community coming together with a common goal. Fast forward seven years, when we found Rachel collapsed at home unable to move or speak. We rushed her to the hospital and discovered that she had suffered a stroke. She was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).
Our family of 4 was split in two. Lauren lived in the hospital with Rachel full time and Peter ran his business while caring for our youngest daughter, Hayley, who was 4 years old at the time. We would alternate nights at the hospital and try to have dinners together, but we were really just seeing each other in passing. We lived like this for 6 months, while Rachel was in the hospital receiving multiple rounds of chemotherapy and doing intensive work to regain her ability to sit, walk, eat and build her language and comprehension skills. It was an extremely difficult time for all for us!
Rachel was discharged in April 2018, but our worst fears came true when Rachel relapsed just two months later. Chemotherapy was not enough to keep the leukemia away and we were running out of treatment options. At home devasted, there was a knock at the door. I opened it and our front yard was filled with friends and family all wearing t- shirts that said #RachelStrong. We could barely contain our emotions and remember Rachel just running into her room crying. That show of support from our “village” gave us the push we needed to make it through the next part of our journey. Rachel needed a bone marrow transplant and her sister Hayley was identified as the most viable donor, even though she was only a half match. Just 5 years before, doctors wouldn’t have attempted a transplant with a half match, but more recently, research had proven some success.
We were told there was about a 25% chance of survival. Peter and I questioned the treatment protocol and knew more needed to be done to increase survival rates. It was important to us that Rachel connected with the charity and felt part of a community, knowing that she wasn’t alone. That’s when we decided to register a team, #RachelStrong, for Light the Night Vancouver and support the LLSC. The light is such a powerful symbol when you are going through such a dark time.
Transplant Day came in October 2018, and Hayley was able to donate the gift of life to her big sister. Today, Rachel has been in remission for 3 years and we are so grateful. She is now 11 years old and continues to receive therapy for language and comprehension development. We wouldn’t be in this place of recovery if it wasn’t for our “village”. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada is part of our village, too. #RachelStrong accepted Top Fundraising Team two years in a row and we are so proud of what we have accomplished.
There is still another 2 years before Rachel is considered cured and with our support, the LLSC is be able to continue their work funding advancements in research and targeted therapies that are making a difference for patients and families. We are stronger together and we will continue to share our story because it’s time to end blood cancers.
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