Inspirational Mom: Andrea, a Story of Courage

In our latest edition featuring inspirational moms in the Tampa Bay Area, we meet up with Andrea, a mother who has dealt with a challenge no mom ever wants to face. We thank her and her family for sharing their story with us.

Andrea’s Story…

I am the mother of two beautiful children, Madyson, age 6, and Mikey, age 4.  I also have a stepdaughter, Samantha, who is 15.

On June 8th, 2011, at the age of 4, Madyson was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

How did you know something was wrong before your daughter was diagnosed?
Before Madyson was diagnosed, we noticed a decline in her energy level.  She was normally a very happy, playful child, and something just did not seem right.  She had some strange bruises on her legs and arms, and began running sporadic fevers.  It was a Monday morning, and she woke up with her stomach protruding, and she was crying that it hurt really bad.  My husband and I decided to take her to the Emergency Room to see what was going on.  The ER Dr told us she was most likely constipated, and the nurses would not do blood work as I requested, and they sent us home with laxatives.

The next day the pain in her belly had gotten more severe, and she was still having high fevers.  We took her back to the same ER, where they decided to do blood work.  When the results came in, they rushed in the room and ran with us down the hall, as the pushed her to the CT Scan.  The Dr. informed us that an ambulance was on the way to transport us to All Children’s, but could offer no further information.  We arrived at All Children’s at midnight and she was placed on the “Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders” floor.  I assumed she was just anemic, but the next morning we were given the worst news of our lives.  She was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

How much did you explain to her about what was happening?
When we were in the hospital, we sat her down and told her there were lots of yucky germs that were in her blood, and she would need to take lots of medicine to get them to go away so she could get all better.  She was only four at diagnosis, but extremely advanced for her age, so this was the way we figured would be best to get her to understand what was happening, and why so many people were so upset.  We also had to explain that all of her hair would fall out, which she was most upset about, because she had never had a hair cut.  We assured her that her hair would all come back and be longer and more beautiful.  As the treatment went on, we always explained everything.  She knows the names of all of the chemotherapy drugs she received, she knows every medicine she is allergic to, and she knows what hemoglobin, platelets, and an absolute neutrophil count are.madyson2
What do you admire most about your daughter?
In my eyes, my daughter is absolutely amazing!!!  She went through over two years of intense chemotherapy and always had a smile on her face.  She would get sick, have long hospital stays, have chemotherapy and blood work through her power port in her chest, she had multiple blood and platelet transfusions, and also received spinal taps every couple of months.  Even when she was completely bald she would walk around so proud.  She started Kindergarten last year, and although she missed about 75 days, she finished the school year well above average in all academic areas.  She is a true fighter, and is definitely my hero!!!
How has this experience changed your family?
This experience has changed our views on many things.  You honestly never realize how hard it is, mentally, emotionally, physically and financially, until you actually go through it.  We have met some amazing people on our journey, and have had some once in a lifetime experiences that we will treasure forever.  We also have a mission to give back to all of the local organizations would helped us out along the way.

What advice would you give other parents who may be facing a similar situation?
I would advise them to definitely take advantage of the amazing resources and support groups in the Tampa Bay area.  We are truly blessed to have such amazing groups to offer help in our area.  The Children’s Cancer Center of Tampa is a place we go monthly for their family connection support groups, they also have provided our family with tickets to sporting events, shows, and many amazing parties, and dinners.  Other places that have helped us out tremendously are the 1Voice Foundation and The Pediatric Cancer Foundation.  We are also very lucky to have such an amazing hospital so close to home, with an amazing staff!

What is something you enjoy doing with your family in the Tampa Bay area?
We enjoy going to sporting events, especially the Tampa Bay Rays, and Tampa Bay Lightning.  We also like to go to the beach, park, and movies.

How is Madyson doing now?
She JUST finished her FINAL chemotherapy treatment on August 10th, 2013!!!  We are so thankful, and very excited that this is now behind us!  Madyson was also just named one of the Honored Heroes for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk this year, with her two best friends who fought as well.
We also want to say that Jessica (one of our Tampa Bay Mom Blogs contributors) is Madyson’s FAVORITE nurse ever!  This journey could have been ten times harder if it was not for her!  They formed a bond that will be forever treasured, and we are so very thankful for her!

madyson4Feel free to add your comments to wish Madyson continued good health! We are so proud to feature your story!

Editor’s Note: We recently asked our readers to share about local inspirational moms and we have been honored to talk to many of them! We will be bringing you the stories of these amazing moms in the Tampa Bay area over the next few months. If you know a mom who you’d like to see featured, please tell us about her at info (@) tampabaymomsblog (dot) com.

Debbie enjoys spending time with her husband of 14 years, Matt and their two very active children: Calvin, a gifted and quirky 11-year-old boy, and Kadison, a creative and strong-willed 8-year-old girl. Debbie attended the University of South Florida for both her bachelor's and master's degrees in education. With 20 years of experience, she's a National Board Certified Teacher in literacy and currently teaches 1st graders. Debbie's mission is to get kids to love learning! In her spare time, Debbie loves to read, enjoy the beach, and find the perfect cup of coffee. She is always on the look-out for a great local restaurant or fun place to go to relax! Follow Debbie on Twitter and Pinterest.