This is the time of year when we reflect on the passing year and our blessings. For many of us it may be hard to find the good that we were given. It has been a tough year for many of us. A year of struggles and sacrifice, a year filled with sorrow and despair. I have a dear friend that continues her battle to live and survive with cancer, another that was diagnosed 3 weeks ago with an aggressive form of breast cancer, another whose husband was diagnosed with colon cancer, one who lost her father, one that lost her mother and one that lost her marriage. So many struggles that sometimes it is so very hard to reflect on our many blessings. As we reflect and remember this past year, I hope that you can find the great daily gifts that you received. I wish for you all to find some good in everything that you have been given.
This is why today I want to introduce you to a very special mom, Mandy Solcum. Mandy and her husband Wes moved to our street a couple years ago. The most adorable young couple that always carried big smiles on their faces and hearts. They were blessed with the most perfect baby boy, Drew, shortly after they arrived to our street. This snuggly sweet baby that I could not wait to cuddle and get my baby fix from. At just 6 weeks old Drew was diagnosed with Infantile Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, and what is amazing to me is how Mandy and Wes have counted their daily blessings and provided love and strength for Drew and one another during the most difficult time in their lives. Mandy’s strength and courage has amazed me. Her positive attitude and outlook is one to be admired. I wanted to share her story to you, because through everything that she has endured, she counts her blessings each and everyday and is so thankful for all that God has provided. Smarties, I am happy to introduce you to Mandy Slocum, super strong mom extraordinaire!
Smarty Mom: Mandy Slocum
Name: Mandy Slocum
Occupation: Nurse Practitioner
Hood: haha.. not sure what hood means but we live in the south Charlotte hood if that’s what you’re looking for 😉
Originally from: Goldsboro, NC
Family: Husband – Wes, Drew who just turned 2, a baby girl on the way due March 23 and our lab Colby who’s 4.
Tell us about learning about Drew being diagnosed with leukemia.
Just reading that question puts a knot in my stomach – “diagnosed with leukemia.” Those words even after 18 months of treatment seem so impossible at times to read and hear when relating it to my son. Drew was born at a healthy 8 pounds 5 ounces and from the very first day, was a very smiley, laid back and easy going baby. He developed and progressed as usual and we as new parents were learning the in’s and out’s of our little man each day. Around 5 1/2 months old, we noticed small gradual changes in him, starting off as minor as decreased appetite, crankiness and some irritability. We thought maybe it was teething but didn’t see a lot of improvement after Tylenol. We then noticed a big change in his sleeping patterns in addition to a progressed flat affect. He was all of a sudden not so smiley and no matter what we did, he just never seemed to be comfortable. In a 10 day period, we took him to our pediatrician 3 times with concerns that something just wasn’t right. It was initially thought to be a viral infection with teething, then a possible ear infection. After 3 days of antibiotics and a very noticeable paleness to his skin, we took him right back requesting blood work. We were all alarmed to see his hemoglobin return significantly low at 5 (should be above 10) with low platelets as well. We were directly admitted to Levine Children’s hospital and found out about his diagnosis the very next day. Our sweet baby boy was diagnosed with Infantile Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
The hardest day was undoubtedly our day of diagnosis, Thursday April 25th, 2013. The 2nd hardest day was our admittance to the Pediatric ICU after Drew’s vital signs ‘crashed’ due to unfavorable side effects from high dose chemotherapy he received as part of his protocol.
What have you learned through all this?
I’ve learned the literal meaning of taking things “day by day,” as there are days, even still now during our maintenance year of treatment, where we take things “hour by hour” just to get Drew through the hard days.
I’ve learned that not everyone you expect to be there for you during challenging times knows how to be or even tries to be, but have also learned of the amazing compassion and support of complete strangers who barely know you.
I’ve learned that although life is full of many joys and miracles, it’s also full of uncertainty, unpredictability and disappointments which has only taught me to truly stop and notice the blessings of each day.
I’ve learned, and am still learning, to stay in today. My worry, fear and angst about what could happen tomorrow only robs the joy in today.
Work life/family life changes
So much about our life is so very different. We had to pretty much live in Levine children’s hospital during our first year of intense treatment and I resigned from my NP job at CMC Main. Even though we are in maintenance therapy now during our 2nd year of treatment, I still am only able to really work one day per week in a different NP position as Drew still requires oral chemo & steroids intermittently each month, monthly oncology visits with lab work and IV chemo and lumber punctures every 12 weeks for chemo to his spine. Any fever requires direct evaluation by his oncologist within the hour to be sure antibiotics are started promptly so that he doesn’t get critically ill. Any day that he seems ‘off’ we’re constantly worrying about the feared relapse that always has the possibility of occurring, even if it is just teething, normal 2 year old behavior tantrums or your run of the mill ear infection. The fear of that ‘R’ word doesn’t ever really leave our minds.
Any advice to a parent that may be in your type of situation?
Keep breathing and stay in today. Force yourself and your mind to not allow the fear, uncertainty and heartache of your child’s diagnosis and the fear of the unknown of tomorrow steal what possible joy you can experience with them today.
Tell us about Drew’s Crew
I have said many times during this difficult journey that there have been endless, endless blessings surrounding us along our path. Drew’s Crew was formed by our closest friends and is comprised of supporters made of friends, family, neighbors, work colleagues, our church family and even some complete strangers. We’ve had many meals provided during our inpatient hospital stays and while at home, our house taken care of while we were away, endless cards and gifts for Drew to help keep him entertained during long hospital stays and amazing prayer warriors who continue to lift Drew and our family up in prayer. The list goes on and on and we are forever grateful for everyone who’ve done nothing but try to lift us up during such a down time. Drew’s Crew also has a “team” that is raising money through CureSearch to help find a cure for children’s cancer.