A Week Away has been a gift to us in so many ways. We had the amazing opportunity to meet Caleb just days before his passing. He immediately clicked with our daughter Olivia in a way that left us in awe. And to learn so much about his dream...to gift families "A Week Away" just like a friend did for him while he was sick...wow, what a gift to give to others.
For us, this gift came after a year of learning that myself, our daughter Olivia, (4 at the time) and our son Liam (2 at the time) all carry a genetic mutation that makes our bodies more prone to tumors in general. I previous had melanoma and thyroid cancer, so although it wasn't a complete surprise to me that I carry this mutation, I was devastated that 2 out of our 3 children carry it. Thankfully our oldest daughter Grace (6 at the time) did not carry this mutation.
A few short months after finding out this news and learning all about the preventative care that we were now eligible for, Olivia's eye began to turn in as though she was crossing her eyes. Long story short, we learned that Olivia had an aggressive brain tumor. Our lives were turned upside down. Surgery was immediate, and within 2 weeks the cancer had spread throughout her brain and began to spread down her spine. That's how aggressive this cancer was. She had to start intense chemo immediately. So following 6 intense rounds of chemo, then 30+ days of traveling from Lancaster to Philadelphia daily for Proton Radiation Therapy, she began several months of maintenance chemo before learning that a new tumor appeared. She was eligible for a clinical trial at St. Jude's, which only lasted 2 rounds of meds before the tumor doubled in size, which led to surgery yet again. In the meantime, I (Olivia's mother) was diagnosed with an abdominal sarcoma that fall...and then early stage breast cancer in February. Both were thankfully treated with surgery and did not require treatment. However, it goes without saying that this has been a challenging year for our entire family.
A Week Away was by our side as soon as they learned about our family. They were eager to send us on our "week away", and we just returned from an absolutely amazing week in Stone Harbor, NJ. This has been a place that I grew up vacationing with my dad who is no longer with us, so it is near and dear to my heart. To be able to get away for 1 week and not think about anything medical...it was a gift that our family will never forget. Olivia (now 5 years old) was able to play in the sand and jump the waves of the ocean just like she did before this journey began. It was refreshing. And as her mother, words could not possibly express the pure gratitude I continue to hold for A Week Away and for every single person working tirelessly to create normalcy for 1 week for families just like ours. And without the amazing donors, these weeks wouldn't be possible.
Just as A Week Away has been behind us on our journey, Paul and I have their backs as well. Thank you A Week Away. Thank you for this gift that is bringing smiles, joy, and gratitude to families going through a very difficult chapter in their lives.