Getting through

Name: Jonathan
Age at diagnosis: 7 years
Diagnosis: Lymphoblastic lymphoma
How Family Reach helped: Grant to pay utilities

While growing pains are common in young children, the Volpe family was shocked when Jonathan was diagnosed with lymphoblastic lymphoma a week after complaining about mild back pain. The diagnosis propelled 7-year-old Jonathan and his parents, Carla and Vincent, into a world of hospital visits, medical tests, and cancer treatment. Throughout his treatment, Jonathan showed incredible resilience. Carla remembers that he “never [complained] and always just [had] trust in whatever was being done. Even when he was sick, he would get dressed and just do what he had to do. He never felt bad for himself. He knew he wanted to get better and wanted to be normal again. He taught me a lot.” When side effects from the chemotherapy changed Jonathan’s appearance, his friends stood by his side. As Carla explained, “Even though he looked different, he still had his friends. In the beginning it was something that was not normal to see a child with no hair, no eyelashes, and a hat but then basically after the first couple of days, they looked at him like Jonathan and it was just Jonathan.”

Throughout the emotional and financial challenges of cancer, Carla and Vincent worked together as a team. When Jonathan was hospitalized, Carla stayed with him around the clock, while Vincent cared for Jonathan’s older brother, Christian. During this time, Vincent missed a lot of work, which significantly decreased the family’s income. They also incurred new medical expenses, including co-pays for hospital visits and prescriptions associated with Jonathan’s treatment. The family struggled to make ends meet and faced a potential electricity shut-off. While at Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital, Embrace Kids Foundation, a support program for families with children being treated for catastrophic illnesses, connected the Volpe family with Family Reach. The grant Family Reach provided was deeply appreciated by the family; it helped pay their utility bill and enabled them to refocus their energies on their son’s treatment. As Carla described, “Oh, it helped out a lot. It took a lot of worries off of us because we were basically on the verge of getting everything shut off. That [Family Reach grant] definitely helped us and it helped us focus on what we needed to [focus on]. At that time we were going through the hardest part of treatment.” Carla also expressed her deep gratitude for the support provided by Embrace Kids throughout Jonathan’s treatment. As she held back tears, she explained, “Oh my God! I can’t even…they were awesome! They really got us through.”

After 2 years, Jonathan has completed treatment and is feeling well. Though his parents are relieved and happy, they recognize that in some ways it is an ongoing journey. Carla said, “It feels good that he is doing well and that he feels good. We’re just happy for that. We’re grateful. It’s just getting through. It’s a lifelong thing. You go every month for blood work for a while. We’re happy that he’s OK.”

Last update: July 31, 2014