When childhood cancer hits moms and their children learn alot about a dreaded disease. "Stage 4 high risk neuroblastoma", rolls off the tongue of Shelly Cassada when she lets people know the form of cancer her five year old daughter, Haleigh has battled for almost a year.
"Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia," is also easily said by Kristie Huddleston when sharing the disease her four year old daughter, Anna is just beginning to fight. Anna speaks up and calls it by its abbreviation, "A-L-L".
Two families with so many similarities. Before hearing the word cancer both Huddleston and Cassada thought only of common childhood illnesses. Cassada recalls, "We actually thought she was suffering from depressions because her dad is in New Orleans cleaning up after the hurricane and we just thought childhood separation anxiety."
Just recently Huddleston sought a correct diagnosis. "She had been having lots of back pain and we went through a series of a few fevers afterwards and they though she had a urinary tract infection or maybe from a fall at the playground at school."
But the mother's intuition took over. Upon seeking more medical opinions both girls are treated at Texas Children's Hospital. Haleigh described the famous hospital. "Actually, they had a playroom with lots of toys. But you can't go in their with your IV." Little Anna also talks of lots of toys and her bravery. "I don't cry when I get my IV'," she proudly said.
The children are resilient, but the moms will always have some worry. Huddleston compared it to a death. "You go through almost like the stages of grief." Cassada said, "The feeling that you get when the doctor tells you that it's cancer is pretty much like being pushed down a dark tunnel with no lights."
The moms have a great support system. Cassada depends on her husband David and her older son, Briar for comfort. Huddleston has her husband Nacogdoches City Commisison Billy Huddleston who is wrapped around the little finger of Anna.
The families will survive like their daughters. Haleigh is looking forward to her beautiful hair growing back. Anna is looking forward to wearing a collection of caps.
Forty years ago these little girls would have less than a ten percent chance of survival. Thanks to research their cancers have a survival rate from 55% to 94%. They don't know each other now, but chances are they'll become playmates.
Both girls have their own websites for friends to receive updates on their conditions and to share get well messages. Anna's is www.caringbridge.org/visit/annakay