“What was incredibly comforting to us was the support system we had back home.”
It was January 2009, and we were winding down from the holidays and ready to enjoy the warmth of being indoors. Over the weekend two family members, in separate conversations, had mentioned to me that Aubrey looked unusually pale. I didn’t think much of it, mostly because it was the middle of winter and we live in Indiana. Nevertheless, I called that Monday morning and made an appointment for Thursday of that week to see Aubrey’s pediatrician.
The next day, Tuesday, we got a terrible ice storm, the storm that shut down much of Indiana and virtually all of Kentucky. Chad and some friends left town, on a trip that had been planned for some time. On Thursday, as scheduled, I took Aubrey to see the doctor. The doctor thought it was likely that Aubrey was suffering from anemia. Her doctor recommended some added iron to Aubrey’s diet, and ran blood tests to be sure to the extent of any deficiency. We went home. It was 2:00pm on January 29th, 2009.
Around 8:00pm that same evening, I noticed headlights coming up the driveway and wondered who it might be given the weather and we weren’t expecting any additional company. The kids were out of school due to the ice storm, and had some friends over. To my surprise, Dr. Norma Kreilein was at our door. Oddly enough, it didn’t register with me why she was there. She joined my friend and me in our kitchen, and shared the staggering news with me that Aubrey had leukemia. She said we would have to leave that very night, and that Aubrey would likely start treatment the next day. My friend suggested we go to St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, TN because of their world-renowned leukemia research.
Within two hours, we were packed and ready to go. The whole family made the grueling 5 hour trip to Memphis where Chad met us. We’d been told to pack for 3 days; we didn’t come back to Jasper for 3 months.
Aubrey was 8 years old at the time of her diagnosis. She was a patient at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, TN. We felt then, and still to this day, that for whatever reason God placed her at St. Jude. Aubrey went through some incredibly difficult times during her treatment. While St. Jude was everything we needed, what was incredibly comforting to us was the support system we had back home, from people like the Dubois County Leukemia Society. To be able to converse with local families who had been through what we were going through, and who had experienced both healing and loss, brought us immense comfort.
Aubrey is bubbly and reserved at the very same time! She loves to be surrounded by friends and family; there is nothing more important to her! It brings her great, overwhelming joy to give back to others, as so many gave to her! She has organized bake sales, lemonade stands, the St. Jude Give Thanks Walk held at Holy Family School, bracelet making & sales, ornament and necklace sales, and the list goes on. Through her efforts, she has helped to raise tens of thousands of dollars for organizations that have helped her. She loves to scrapbook, travel, play tennis, go on walks, bike rides, runs, hang with her family, be with her dog Weego, online chat with her friends, sing, dance, and so much more. She’s full of life.
Her, and our, initial fears were mostly confusion. We had no idea what any next moment, much less a day, would hold. She was hospitalized for many extended stays, some of which we weren’t sure we would make it home from. Aubrey’s treatment lasted just shy of three full years. Her initial year was completed in Memphis, during this time Memphis became like home to us. We spent most of our time there, traveling home to Jasper when we could. After that first year Memorial Hospital (thankfully) worked with St. Jude to administer Aubrey’s treatment here locally. The nurses and staff there were nothing short of wonderful!
Aubrey is in remission, and it is 10 years from her remission date that she will be considered cured. That date will fall sometime just shy of her 19th birthday (today she is 14 years old). Even though we have no idea what these next 6 years will bring, we know beyond any doubt that we are blessed with having been through this with her. None of us are the same people we would have been without her illness. A compassion that we might have never known is probably the number one thing we’ve taken away from the past 6 years.
Fun Fact: During treatment Aubrey had to avoid all germs, illness, etc. She was promised a dog once treatment was completely over and her immune system had started to recover. Weego (pictured with Aubrey) became an important family member in 2012.