Family Update: The Sampson Family
Family Reach recently sat down with former Family Reach grant recipient and Family Council member, Kim Sampson and her family to hear an update on their journey. The Sampson family has truly become part of our family at Family Reach. We are so grateful for all they do to help other families fighting cancer.
The Calm After the Storm. No one writes about this. Is it real? Who can I talk to? Is there a book I can read? How are we supposed to feel? How is Becca supposed to be feeling right now? How do I help my sweet little girl? How can I help our family heal?
Glen and I knew what it was like losing a parent to cancer, but had no idea how differently devastating it is when your child was diagnosed. Becca was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia when she was five years old. Her treatment was tough and ended two years later. She has remained in remission for three years. Here is the strange reality. Feeling so unbelievably grateful that our daughter lived and at the same time, so unbelievably terrified that our lives will never be the same again or worse that the cancer will come back. Trying so hard not to show your true fears inside, but rather that your family has healed and is whole again. At the same time feeling so alone and isolated in this weird world that only a few belong to but desperately wanting to talk about it.
I understand why people want to focus on the fact that Becca is in remission. Most people around us want to believe that Becca is fully healed physically and emotionally and is a whole little girl once again. After all, why wouldn’t they focus on the way she looks on the outside? But what most people don’t notice about Becca, is that she is learning how to feel not afraid when she gets a bloody nose or stomachache. She is learning that she can get a normal cold and not go to the Emergency Room. Becca is learning how to go to school every day even if the kid next to her has the flu. She is learning how to build friendships. Friendships that revolve around who she is apart from the cancer, not with the cancer. She is learning to trust that kids at her new school love, laugh and smile around her because they like her, not because they feel bad for her.
Glen and I had been married for 13 years when Becca was diagnosed. We remain married but, even the strongest of marriages are tested during a fight like this. Loving, trusting, beautiful marriages are broken by the effects of a child’s illness. These are facts, not just words written on a page by an emotional Mom. Marriages take work on the best of days. Spending time communicating, laughing and loving each other…this matters.
When Becca became sick, Glen and I made financially hard but emotionally easy choices for our family. Some which had horrible consequences. We chose to be by Becca and Timmy’s side during treatment. That meant being there for Becca and being there separately for our son. After all, both needed to make it to the other side of cancer. The financial burden that we would encounter was nothing short of a disaster. One extremely hard working machinist Dad putting in as many hours as he could each week, while often relying on overtime to make ends meet AGAINST a 2 year Battle with cancer = No Match. Glen quickly lost his job due to his unrelenting love and commitment for Becca, her treatment and his family. Now What?
Family Reach! This Foundation reaches families in our situation, when and where we need it! They saw the critical need that is completely unaddressed by any State, outside agency or Foundation. Glen had no income. We had no food. We could not pay our mortgage. We couldn’t keep our family warm. These are basic needs that are not negotiable. Every human being deserves to be fed, warm and safe at night. But these are needs that Pediatric Cancer Families struggle to fulfill every day that are not addressed at a larger level, anywhere!
But these needs ARE being addressed by Family Reach. This Foundation did not come in to financially save us every month, but what they did was to give us a reprieve long enough to catch our breath and think about our next steps. This Foundation gave Glen and I more than a few moments together in the hospital with Becca and Timmy. This Foundation gave me time to just be a Mom, not a superhero…Just a Mom.
You are probably wondering how Family Reach is impacting families on the other side of treatment. Does giving money really change the course and the future of a family? Simply put- Yes! Family Reach gave our family financial and emotional support at a point in our Cancer journey when we desperately needed it.
And now, Family Reach has given me an amazing opportunity to be part of their Family Council. The Family Council is making a difference. We are creating a resource guide that will be handed out to families that are newly diagnosed. This is so important to me. Becca’s survival was of the utmost importance to us, but the survival of our family unit was just as important on the other side. Given the right information, at just the right time, can empower a family to make better financial choices when it really matters. Knowing that there is help and how to get it is crucial for a family who is facing cancer.
The battle is not over when the chemo ends. Our daughter goes to the hospital multiple times a year for late effects and check-ups. We are so very afraid when she gets her blood drawn. I don’t know if that fear will ever go away. Glen now has a wonderful job, but the thought of
losing that income and stability is never far from our minds. The experience of unexpectedly losing our only income while our daughter was fighting for her life was an unimaginable reality that we will not soon forget.
The Leukemia and how it touched Becca and the rest of our family is something I am determined to work through. I know I don’t have it all figured out yet. In fact, I am sure that it is going to take a very long time to sort through all the emotions that our family has experienced over the past few years. It is a lonely and isolating journey. But, we are not quite alone when we have Family Reach on our side. They were financially supportive but more importantly emotionally loving and compassionate. We will forever be grateful!”