Little Olivia started the family vacation feeling lethargic, with a low fever and a tummy ache. She rallied, but on the long car ride home her symptoms overtook her again.
“A 2-year-old that slept the whole entire road trip …” said her mom, Kacie.
Something wasn’t right. Her pediatrician did labs and the results were stunning.
“Your entire world can be shattered in the few minutes it takes for a blood test to be run,” said Kacie. “I think then, it was pure darkness. I did not see any future.”
Olivia had acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a type of blood cancer. ALL is the most common form of childhood cancer, but thanks to treatments invented at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, its survival rate has increased from 4% when St. Jude opened in 1962 to 94% today.
Kacie said, “I think that by the time we got admitted to St. Jude, we were pushing midnight. It was late. But they did not waste any time. The next morning, she was being taken down to have a port put in and have spinal taps, and lumbar punctures, and all the stuff that was not anywhere in our vocabulary of common-day conversation. Now it has become as routine as wanting to watch Mickey Mouse in our home.”
Olivia (right) with her family
Cancer treatment has meant that Olivia and her twin brother, Owen, have to spend most of their days apart, and she misses out on play dates and birthday parties with cousins. But she actually enjoys coming to St. Jude.
“Her nurses have all commented on how well she handles everything, never letting out a cry and always sitting still for them to do whatever they need to do,” said Kacie. “She is the perfect daughter and the best sister, and if you ask her, she isn’t sick.”
St. Jude has helped push the childhood cancer survival rate from 20% when we opened to 80% today. We won’t stop until no child dies from cancer.
Olivia’s parents were St. Jude supporters before her diagnosis, but even their expectations have been surpassed.
I’ve always known St. Jude is a special place, but not until we became patients did I truly understand. St. Jude means hope. St. Jude means a future for our daughter. I am eternally grateful that we have this amazing place. When people give to St. Jude they are helping to make miracles happen.
Olivia, who loves baby dolls, painted nails, pretty dresses and all things princess, will be receiving chemotherapy until 2021. Her family will owe St. Jude nothing, because families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food.