Ella’s mother, Larissa, shares how cancer has impacted her family’s past, present and future. 

Ella and mom enjoying some sun!

On June 14, 2014, after her last week of kindergarten, Ella was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. I will never forget that day. Ella was battling strep throat and it just wouldn’t go away. Her strep, paired with excessive fatigue, made me worry. We immediately visited her doctor, who drew blood and told us the news. That night, we were admitted to Boston Children’s Hospital. We thought Ella might be admitted for a few days. Little did we know, we would not leave until August 26.

Treatment for Ella began, but it was fraught with complications. She developed multiple infections, which resulted in two stays in intensive care. She was unable to digest solid food and her primary source of nutrition was an IV. Ella was bedridden and her muscles atrophied. Watching her suffer through each of these obstacles was incredibly difficult.

A new normal

When Ella was discharged from the hospital, our family had to adjust to a new way of life. My son Luke, who was eight at the time, was about to start school. I was so excited we were able to be together for that. During Ella’s treatment, Luke had spent a lot of time with his dad in Concord, New Hampshire, about an hour away from us. Although he was able to visit on weekends, it still was overwhelming and heartbreaking to have our family separated at this time. Now we were back together and striving for a new normal.

I had a tutor come and we tried to resume activities at home, but it wasn’t without difficulty. Ella’s treatment was long, demanding and grueling at times. She struggled through blood transfusions, chemotherapy and endless medications. She was a trooper through it all.

The road ahead

Ella is now eight years old and cancer free! She is a very positive, funny, energetic kid and is making lots of new friends in her third-grade class. She has started doing Girl Scouts and enjoys being as social as she can in between monthly Jimmy Fund check ups and a few ongoing appointments.

It’s hard to describe all of the ways cancer impacted my family. It will always be a part of our lives, not just something we went through. Financially, it has been a nightmare. As a single mother, I struggled to make it through without losing everything. Thanks to amazing family, friends and organizations like Family Reach, I was able to make ends meet. It has not been easy, and I feel lucky to have both my children by my side.

While we deal with the after effects of cancer – bone density scans, orthopedic visits, inability to resume all activities – we try to do as many “normal” things as we can. I’m taking the kids to the Boston ballet to see the Nutcracker on Christmas Eve, going to a polar express exhibit and attending lots of movies. With the past never too far from our mind, we’re slowly rebuilding our life and pushing forward as a family.

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