Recently, a child in our Primary program has gone through treatment at Little Rock Children’s for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. We are holding a silent auction fundraiser on Sunday, November 10th, from 12:00-3:00pm at the Apple Blossom Brewing Company (1550 East Zion Rd. Suite 1, Fayetteville, Arkansas 72703). Please join us in Supporting Stella in her fight!

Here is her story:

There is really no way to define Stella in one word. She is charismatic, independent, loving, intelligent, beautiful, creative, I could go on and on.

Amy and I, Jennifer, have been committed for 22 years. Seven years ago we decided we were ready to begin a family, so we researched our options and 3 years later we reached a pregnancy that lasted more than 5 months. We had just closed on what we thought was our dream home located in the country in Winslow, AR with 13 acres for our future children to run and romp, have a garden, a small farm, lots of flower beds and, well, anything we came up with. On May 9th, 2011, Amy woke up nauseous and dizzy By 3pm we were in NWMC-Bentonville being diagnosed with Pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure and protein in the urine during pregnancy which can lead to seizures if untreated) and discussing birth options. We were only 27 weeks along. By 5pm, Amy was en-route to UAMS at Little Rock. I was prepared to go with my partner, but she asked me to stay to take care of our 17 year old, diabetic, insulin dependent Labrador and come in the morning due to the horrible thunderstorm currently covering the area. I didn’t listen. I proceeded home to give our pet his medicine and make sure he was secure. I packed a bag for Amy and I and headed to Little Rock. They would not let me see her because I was not “family”. I called to “check up” on her, but did not tell her I was in the waiting room, she had enough to contend with. Despite medications and various other treatment options, Stella was born on May 11, 2009 at 10:04 pm. She was 14 inches long and weighed 1 lb. 14 oz. I was allowed in the birthing room thanks to the neonatal staff realizing I was the other parent. She stayed at UAMS Little Rock Neo Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for 1 1/2 months. We were unable to touch her for the first three weeks due to her delicate skin, but she was beautiful. She became medically stable enough that we petitioned to transport her to Willow Creek NICU on the grounds that she would be closer to her supportive extended family. On July 31st at 5 lbs. and wearing a preemie outfit that was too big for her, she came home attached to a fetal heart monitor to advise us if she stopped breathing. She attended physical, occupational and speech therapy for one year, optometry appointments every other month, cardiology appointments every month to monitor a 6mm “hole” in her heart and monthly pediatrician appointments. It was a busy year. At the end of the year, she was released from all of these with no deficits.

We began noticing that Stella was not as active as she usually is. She was more fatigued and ate less, which is significant since she eats like a bird most of the time anyway. We took her to her pediatrician and that is when we first heard the word Leukemia associated with our little girl. We were in shock, at first, but recovered quickly. We were already accustomed to “fighting” for her. On May 31st, 2013, she was diagnosed with the most common form of Leukemia, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). Treatment includes chemotherapy, radiation therapy and bone marrow transplantation. Her size was a large concern for all treatment options, so we discussed the options with her treatment team and determined that outpatient chemo was the best course of action. We attempted to keep her in school during her first “trial” of chemo, but the side effects were overwhelming for her. She developed sores on the bottom of her feet and palms of her hands, vomiting, and thrush down her throat. She did not have the strength to move, at all. After two “doses” the treatment team determined full doses of chemo was too much for her tiny body and we would need to “take it slow”. Her oncologist suggested she was a perfect candidate for a clinical trial at UAMS, but it would involve her being in the hospital in Little Rock. We discussed it as a family and decided that since I was staying home with the kids for the past year, I would move to Little Rock with Stella and the twins and Amy would stay home and work. So on, July 1st, we moved into a hotel two blocks from Children’s Hospital and helped Stella get situated. Her assets shone from the beginning with her beautiful smile and her head of blond hair. We stayed for a month and the scans showed she was reacting to the treatment so successfully she was no long qualified for the clinical trial. The treatment team determined she would return to outpatient therapy. We moved home. The bills were piling up. Our families have always been an enormous support for us in every way they can, but financial was not one of them. We applied for every community resource we could, only to be told that we did not qualify for one reason or another. We attempted to refinance our house, we used our IRA’s, we maxed out our credit card. We contacted the mortgage company with no success. We finally agreed to relinquish our home. We separated our family and moved in with our extended families due to lack of space for all of us at one house. Most of our things are in a storage unit paid by my father. We are currently living in a two bedroom apartment. However, Stella will complete her 24th and last chemotherapy appointment on November 8th, 2013. We are hopeful for remission!
- Jennifer