The Childhood Cancer Angels I Met Along the Way
I have been enormously blessed in my life to have met some people along the way that not only changed my life, but helped shape the person I’ve become. While I was at the hospital in Los Angeles, I met many children battling AML and ALL right next to me. These are a few of those children that I was privileged enough to meet. Unfortunately, they were not long for this world, but Heaven is blessed to call them their angels now.
Jimmy and Ashton
When I was in Laminar, there were two little boys on either side of me going through the same thing. They were both diagnosed with AML and were being treated in their own “bubble rooms” in the Laminar unit. I was able to meet them both when they came into the unit to be placed in their rooms and their families were always around.
Jimmy was a cute little 2 year old boy, whose family spoke mostly Spanish. I could hear him laughing or crying most days. He didn’t stay in the bubble room long, his body wasn’t strong enough to fight. He passed early in 1988.
Ashton was a sweet 1 year old to the left of me and also had AML. His mom brought his two cute brothers in often to see him and they were the sweetest boys. Ashton was also too small to fight and lost his battle that same year.
I also met Monique at the hospital. She was a gorgeous teenage girl of 16 that was diagnosed with AML. We spoke briefly a few times and I remember just being in awe of her. She was beautiful, even bald and had the sweetest demeanor. She was so positive and had the most gorgeous smile. Her high school picture reminded me of Elisabeth Shue from Adventures in Babysitting (it was the 80s after all) and I wanted to look just like her when I grew up.
I didn’t know her very well, in fact only had a few encounters with her during that year at the hospital, but I looked up to her almost immediately. Monique had a bone marrow transplant and died from complications from the transplant. When my mom told me she died, it hit really hard, I had lost another “cancer friend”. She had told me that Monique had woken up in her bubble room and said “I love you” to her mom right before she passed. That haunted me for a long time.
Here was this beautiful teenage girl, with her whole life ahead of her, and now she was gone. All I could think was that my future was going to be the same. Relapses and hospital stays and complications until one day it was all over. I felt a lot of guilt for worrying about myself and a lot of sadness for losing another friend.
One of the first families we met in the hospital was the Roebucks. Renee was the sweetest little girl that was diagnosed with Stage 2 ALL because she was under 2 at the time of diagnosis. My mother and her mother, Athena became fast friends and spent as much time together as they could.
This little girl lit up any room she was in and had a huge smile to share with everyone. She had the cutest little laugh and was spunky whenever her body allowed her to be. Her family lived in Santa Barbara and we had visited them at their home a couple times. The Make A Wish Foundation gave her the prettiest playhouse for her backyard.
I always felt such a strong connection to her, even though I knew she was too young to feel the same. She changed my life in the short year that I knew her. She had a bone marrow transplant in October, 1988 and after relapsing, died at home in her mother’s arms in February, 1989. My heart broke into a million pieces.
I have always been amazed by the strength of her family. They know that they will see their angel baby again and live their lives in honor of her. When I got married and was blessed to get pregnant the first time, I called Athena. I wanted to remember sweet Renee in the only way I knew how, I asked if I could name my first daughter after her.
Now, I am blessed to have my sweet Nikki Renee, and she and I are both beyond blessed to have a constant guardian angel on our shoulders.
When I was 14 years old in 1992, we received a call from an organization we were a part of called Candlelighters for Childhood Cancer. A young man, 16 years old, was just diagnosed with AML and wanted to meet us. My mom and I went to the hospital and met Jason York for the first time.
He went through 4 rounds of chemotherapy without going into remission and in 1993 spent almost 9 months in the hospital. He finally went into remission and received a bone marrow transplant from a donor on the registry. He had several complications and relapsed a couple times.
Jason and I were good friends and hung out a few times at his home and at church dances. He was such a nice guy and so positive. He was also LDS and wanted to serve a two year mission for our church. He sent in his papers to do so and then had to cancel his mission when he relapsed again.
I was attending institute at our local college and was in the choir when Jason ended up in the hospital again. I went with the choir one day to sing for him in his hospital room and I will never forget the spirit that was there that day. He was very sick and had an oxygen mask on but pulled it down to share a sweet testimony with us. He also requested that we sing “I Believe In Christ”. That song has never been the same for me.
My mom and I made a quick visit over to his house one night after he was released from the hospital. When his mom answered the door, she told us he was sleeping but that we could go in. We decided not to disturb him, and I don’t think I have ever regretted anything more. He passed two days later. Jason’s funeral was one of the most testimony building experiences of my life.
While he was on hospice at home, he planned his entire funeral. He chose the songs to be sung, the people to speak and he had every guest write their testimony of God and Jesus Christ on a little slip of paper. When we arrived at the cemetery, we placed the papers in balloons, filled them with helium and released them into the air. Even on his deathbed, he wanted to world to know that he knew where he was going. He knew that even though he couldn’t serve a mission in life, he would be serving one for the Lord in heaven.
Jason is my hero.
After I heard of Renee’s passing, I wrote a poem to try and help with grief. The only consolation was knowing that they were with a loving Father in Heaven that loves them and knows whats best for them.
by Jamie Anderson, age 11
Our Lord is deep inside our heart
Has been there ever since the start.
He’ll be there for rough times, hard and sad
He’ll love you even when your mad.
Sometimes you might blame things on Him,
But He will say “It’s not a sin”.
And then He’ll say “I love you very much
Read my word and keep in touch”