by Billy Lewis
“Your child has cancer.” As a parent those are words that you never want to hear, but as a father it hits you in ways that you never could have imagined. Hearing these words about your first born, your first son. How do you console your family and still be super dad, the man of the house? It’s definitely not an easy task. This was the situation that I was put in on January 3, 2017. Elijah, at the time, my eight-year-old son had taken on a new battle- Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. After days of not knowing what was wrong with our son, my wife finally went to get answers and we were told those exact words. “Your child has cancer.” Prior to being diagnosed, Elijah was a healthy kid, the only time he had seen the doctor was for routine appointments. He, unlike our other two children, was never sick. So, learning the devastating news was such a shock to us. After learning the news, we waited for answers, what would be the treatment plan? Everything seemed to move so slowly. My job was to not only be a father but to be a soldier. I had to be strong for my wife, I had to still play father to my other two children who were at that time three and four years old. I had to tell myself several times, it is okay for a man to cry, and it was.
My wife and I took turns staying at the hospital. I took a leave from work to attend chemotherapy treatments with Elijah. I never thought that I would have to bond with my kid under these circumstances. We literally went from playing video games at home, practicing throwing the football in the back yard and studying for tests in the living room, to preparing for our next phase of treatment.
Being that the hospital became our second home we became familiar with several organizations that focused on families dealing with childhood cancer. One of which was The Periwinkle Foundation. They played and continue to play a major role in my son’s treatment. While staying in the hospital there was not a week that would go by without someone from the Periwinkle Arts In Medicine Program that would stop by with someone doing some type of activity, those activities included poetry, games, music and story time. One of Elijah’s favorites was listening to the different people come by and play instruments, this encouraged him to join band, he just picked out his instrument as he will be entering the sixth grade! Elijah has also attended Periwinkle Day Camp, he was dropped off for an entire week every day and engaged in several activities, visited the fire station, participated in water activities, and bonded with other children. Elijah’s favorite is Camp Periwinkle, a summer week-long camp that is filled with joy for children and their siblings. Camp Periwinkle provides a safe, emotionally healing and fantastic adventure to give every camper the opportunity to grow in independence and self-esteem. When Elijah was first accepted to camp both my wife and I were very nervous, but from the arrival process all the way to the time the kids left on the bus everything was so organized. We didn’t know what to expect leaving medication and leaving someone else responsible for our child, but the team assured us that everything would be fine, and it was! When we arrived in Brenham to get Elijah, seeing the smile on his face brought us so much joy. He enjoyed himself to the point that he did not want to leave. The next year he went, and everything was a breeze. He talks about it to this day and can’t wait until camp again this year.
It is programs like The Periwinkle Foundation has to offer that help families cope with situations we were placed in. You never want to hear those words “your child has cancer” but if you do, it helps to know there are programs to take some of the strain off of your family. Thank you, Periwinkle Foundation!
About The Periwinkle Foundation
The Periwinkle Foundation develops and provides programs that positively change the lives of children, young adults and families who are challenged by cancer and other life-threatening illnesses and are cared for at Texas Children’s Hospital. Each year more than 14,000 children are touched by Periwinkle programs free of charge. Through camping, recreational and arts programming, The Periwinkle Foundation provides opportunities for these special children and their families to heal emotionally, lead fuller lives and become stronger survivors. With the generous help of our friends and supporters in the community, The Periwinkle Foundation provides a community of healing.
To learn more about how you can support The Periwinkle Foundation visit: www.Periwinklefoundation.org
Any contribution is greatly needed and appreciated. Your support will provide remarkable experiences for remarkable families!