Thirty months ago, our family woke up one Sunday morning and went swimming with our seemingly healthy 12-year-old son. Little did we know when we left our house that morning, Matthew wouldn’t return home for two weeks.
From the pool he went straight to the emergency room on Fort Knox after a baseball-size lump appeared out of nowhere on his neck while he was swimming.
We were transferred by ambulance to Norton Children’s Hospital and admitted to 7 West, the cancer unit, for a possible cancer diagnosis.
Seeing the words “Addison Jo Blair Cancer Care Center” for the first time as you step off the elevator on the seventh floor is a gut punch. In that moment it just became real. You can’t think clearly. You can’t breathe.
The following morning, Matthew was officially diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
The journey has been an incredible rollercoaster of highs and lows, happiness and sadness.
Matthew has experienced the highs of having great blood counts and the happiness of making incredible friends with nurses, doctors, fellow warriors and their families — whom we now call family. He also felt the incredible joy of hearing the words, “You’re in remission.”
On the other hand, Matthew experienced the lows of the physical effects of chemotherapy, the heartbreaking pain of losing fellow warriors to this fight and of being told the news exactly one year later that he had relapsed.
Then once more, we experienced the absolute high of finding an anonymous donor match for a bone marrow transplant and hearing the words again, “Matthew, you’re in remission.”
The fight against pediatric cancer is all about numbers for us. Daily numbers for his complete blood count, white blood cell count, absolute neutrophil count, medication dosages, dates and times for appointments — the list goes on. Matthew’s numbers concerning his fight are astounding.
This journey has been hard, but the amazing outpouring of support, love and compassion from family, friends, charitable organizations and Norton Children’s Hospital has uplifted our family through it all. They are the core of “TeamMatthew.”
Today we are celebrating 12 months of remission after a successful bone marrow transplant. Our journey — with its progress, setbacks and ultimate victory — also is theirs: “TeamMatthew.”
We never fight alone.
–Dion Walker Sr.