Cancer, the hard pitch to hit

Name: Joshua
Age at diagnosis: 7 years
Diagnosis: Acute lymphoblastic leukemia
How Family Reach helped: Grant for uncovered medical needs

On July 6, 2009, 7-year-old Joshua Lukawski was diagnosed with high-risk, acute lymphoblastic leukemia. “Life has a way of throwing curve balls at you, and cancer was a hard pitch to hit,” reflected Joshua’s dad.

Joshua was suffering from frequent strep throat infections that didn’t seem to clear up with medication. His parents, Jeff and Suzanne, knew that something wasn’t right and took him to see the pediatrician, who sent Joshua to the Valerie Fund at Morristown Medical Center (a Family Reach partner hospital). After some initial testing, the doctors delivered the “hard pitch”: There was evidence of cancer in 90% of Joshua’s bone marrow. Jeff recalls not even completing all of the paperwork because they wanted to start Joshua on chemotherapy immediately. Although they felt numb and shocked, Joshua’s parents knew they had to “step up to the plate and fight for the life of their baby boy.”

Joshua began a long, difficult journey in which he endured various chemotherapies, cranial radiation, multiple spinal taps, and 4 inpatient hospitalizations. “Ann and Cathy, social workers at The Valerie Fund, became a part of our extended family and lifted his spirits by throwing a party for him when he was hospitalized on his birthday,” recalls Suzanne. In addition to the hospital staff, they relied on members of their church, who provided meals for 6 months, as the family often couldn’t find the time to go grocery shopping.

A retired fireman, Jeff’s pension was enough to manage their everyday living expenses, but there were still extensive medical expenses associated with treatment. “The co-pays and coinsurance were expenses we weren’t anticipating. We often wondered how we would pay our bills or for gas as we drove 85 miles round trip for his treatments,” said Jeff. “The grant from Family Reach was profoundly helpful! It paid for things that our health insurance didn’t cover, like the medical bills for his inpatient hospitalizations. We thanked God for people like Family Reach who were concerned enough to help complete strangers.”

Joshua is now doing well and his parents describe him as driven, funny, strong, and purposeful. At 11 years old, he already knows he wants to study engineering at West Point and serve the country as a military officer. Although Joshua has been on an arduous 4-year journey with cancer, it hasn’t stopped him from planning his future and hitting that “hard pitch” out of the ballpark.

Last update: July 31, 2014