Weeks after Noel’s third birthday, we noticed bruising covering her little body. This seemed abnormal to us and we decided that we would talk to her pediatrician about our concern during her upcoming visit. Within days of noticing the bruising, she became very ill with flu-like symptoms. After several phone calls to the pediatrician, with fear of dehydration looming, we took her in to see her doctor. She was a very sick little girl, but we didn’t realize just how sick.
The doctor ran blood tests and explained that the results were very concerning. She instructed us to take Noel immediately to the University of Virginia’s Emergency Department where they would be able to run more tests and were better prepared to treat her. Over those next several excruciating hours, we were told that our daughter had a strep infection, but because leukemia cells had taken over all of her “good” blood cells her body could not fight off the infection. She was on the verge of septic shock. Our brains were trying to decipher what we were hearing. Strep? Septic Shock? Leukemia?!? A parent’s worse nightmare was becoming our reality.
They immediately sent her to the pediatric ICU where they began giving her IV antibiotics to fight the strep infection as they prepared to begin chemotherapy to kill the leukemia cells that had overtaken her body. Noel spent nearly a month in the hospital before coming home to continue outpatient treatment at UVA Children’s Hospital, and one year ago she transferred to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital after a job change brought our family to Middle Tennessee.
These past two and a half years have been very difficult and challenging for our family, but I can say with confidence that we have grown and become stronger through this unexpected journey. Noel was a fun-loving and sweet child before she was forced to become a cancer fighting warrior princess. She is the strongest and bravest five year old girl I know. Her two big brothers have watched and cheered their little sister on from the sidelines. We have seen such an outpouring of love and support from our family and friends, and even complete strangers who have heard of her story. We thank God for sparing her life, and we rejoice that she had become a Pediatric Cancer Survivor. We will forever be grateful to the TGHP and Alex Sumner photography for capturing the end of this long journey through beautiful photographs. What an amazing gift to our family! Thank you for celebrating our little girl’s victory over leukemia.