Hey friends…I want to introduce you to someone.
This is Dylan. He’s 11 years old and was diagnosed with mixed phenotypic Leukemia in March of 2013, one month before I was diagnosed with my cancer. Personally, the last couple of years have been some of the most rewarding for me, but also the most difficult, however, to hear what Dylan has gone through since diagnosis makes my struggles pale in comparison. And yet, his mother says his excitement for living has only deepened.
Dylan is being treated for his leukemia at the University of Chicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital and lives at home in East Chicago, Indiana with his mom, dad and two siblings. His mom and dad are both disabled and their family has very low income. Cancer treatment has made it close to impossible for this family to make ends meet.
Dylan had a lengthy treatment course including chemotherapy and matched sibling bone marrow transplant in June of 2013. Unfortunately, Dylan had multiple complications before and after his transplant including a severe allergic reaction, resulting in altered mental status and ultimately complete loss of vision in both eyes.
Dylan’s social worker at Comer Children’s Hospital brought their story to the attention of Family Reach when the family was significantly behind on their rent and in desperate need of car repair. Their social worker reported that Dylan missed several appointments due to the family having an unreliable vehicle. Family Reach immediately provided a grant to cover several months rent, to help this family get back on track. With Family Reach assistance, the family was also able to afford the repairs for their car.
Dylan also developed autoimmune hemolytic anemia which requires frequent clinic visits. Dylan has regular follow-up visits with oncology, ophthalmology, endocrinology, and pulmonology at Comer. His mother Patricia stays at home with Dylan and his siblings and provides home-schooling. His father works as a laborer but is often needed for care giving due to Dylan’s follow-up schedule. Now that Dylan’s follow-up care is decreasing, his father is able to devote more time to employment.
This month I will be meeting Dylan personally, to help spread his story, to be inspired by his example to complete my fundraiser and run, and to showcase the crucial work Family Reach achieves for so many people in need. Sometimes it’s hard to understand the value of a small donation, and sometimes the effect of your contribution seems to disappear the moment you hit the “send” button, but I wouldn’t ask for help if I didn’t believe in the work of Family Reach and if I didn’t understand what these dollars can mean to a family facing the unbelievable financial burden of cancer treatment.
I’m working with Dylan because he is an example of the effect of your donations, of how your extra funds can keep a family from sliding into a well of debt they can’t climb out of. Your donations allow families and patients to keep their cars running in order to get them to life saving treatments, to help keep the water running in their houses, to pay the rent that keeps a roof over their heads, and to simply alleviate the emotional stress of wondering if they’ll be able to pay all the bills each month. We can all understand how comforting it is to know we are somewhat financially secure and you are offering the same comfort to those who find themselves in unavoidably difficult circumstances due to no fault of their own.
This August i’m going to be running down the state to highlight the work of Family Reach, to raise funds for the families they serve, and guided by the encouragement of Dylan for all 7 days and all 350 miles of the trek. He says he’s even looking forward to running with me when we meet!
Please consider spreading the goal of my fundraiser or contributing yourself if you can. All contributions during the month of June get you entered into a drawing for one of four autographed John Green books. If you’re a cat lover, you can order one of the shirts I created for this fundraiser (see previous post), of which every penny goes to Family Reach. Thanks for helping Family Reach, for helping Dylan and his family, and for helping all the families who will face the burdens of cancer to come.