September 11, 2008, will forever hold a different meaning for Jim and Shelly Burton.
It was the day their only child, Nicole, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Once diagnosed, Nicole endured round after round of chemotherapy, blood and platelet transfusions, and frequent hospital visits for fevers. It wasn't long before she was named the diva of her wing of the hospital because she got a new princess dress after every chemo treatment.
On March 23, 2011, Nicole finally finished treatment, only to relapse less than two months later. Mom Shelly says, "I remember the call like it was yesterday; my husband was in New York working, and I had been admitted to the hospital with a blood clot in my heart and lung. Three doctors stood over top of me telling me that I probably would not make it. So there I sat, helpless, cared, thinking that I needed to make arrangements for someone to care for Nicole while Jim was out of town. With a teary voice, the doctor said, 'I’m sorry, your baby has relapsed.' I got out of the hospital several days later, went home, repacked and Nicole and I were off to start treatment again."
This time, things were different. The Burtons were told that a bone marrow transplant was Nicole's only chance. "We wanted our child to be healthy again, so we agreed to start the bone marrow process," remembers Shelly.
With the help of a skilled medical team and a successful bone marrow transplant, Nicole has now marked more than 150 days cancer-free. "We are out of the hospital, not out of the woods," says Shelly. "We still have to be followed very closely." She credits an amazing medical team and their family's faith for Nicole's current health.
"I would like to take the time to thank the staff at the hospital… their hugs and hope are what has carried my family, as well as my daughter, through this long journey. Our memories are great, our trust is strong, our hearts are thankful."
The Burtons found immense comfort in other parents who also had children receiving treatment at the same hospital as Nicole. They shared tears, hope and hugs with people who understood what they were going through all too well, and continue to raise awareness of childhood cancer.
Looking back on their journey, Shelly shares one important request: "Please get registered to be a bone marrow donor. You could be the one who saves a child’s life, like someone did for Nicole."
Register to be a bone marrow donor with the National Marrow Donor Program today.
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