As parents, it is so natural to have hopes and dreams for our child. We plan what we hope the future will hold for them: first day of school, sports they’ll play, music lessons, prom, high school graduations and on to college. We want nothing more than to see their dreams come true. When parents are told their child has cancer, those goals are put on hold; they are replaced with the more immediate goals of treatment plans, doctor appointments and survival. Milestones change from “first tooth” to “number of months cancer free”.
Our son Andrew was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoma Leukemia (ALL) on June 18th, 2002 at the age of 2 ½ years old. Initially he was labeled standard risk with a cure rate of over 80%. Chemotherapy was started immediately. We were devastated but hopeful. After two relapses in the first 2 months of treatment, Andrew needed a bone marrow transplant. Since none of our family members were a match, a search began on the National Bone Marrow Registry. A match was found and Andrew received his bone marrow transplant (BMT) on October 1, 2002. Within a month he was fully engrafted with his donor cells. After many hurdles, we were hopeful for a cure.
After surviving two more relapses the following year, Andrew seemed to beat the odds. His leukemia appeared to be gone but his life saving BMT left him with a case of chronic graft-vs-host disease (GVHD). If affected his joints, skin, and lungs. He was given immune-suppressant medications and steroids to treat the GHVD. With much physical and occupational therapies, Andrew grew stronger. He began living a more “normal” kid life attending school, playing sports and enjoying cub scouts.
We celebrated his 5-year anniversary of being cancer free! Hat a milestone that was! But by the middle of 2007, Andrew was demonstrating poor lung performance and began monitored for pulmonary function disorder. He was treated with continued steroids but his lungs were performing below average rates. We were told he may need a lung transplant.
Life takes turns for which we are not prepared. Andrew got the flu which proved to be fatal. On February 20, 2009 Andrew ascended into heaven. He is missed each and every day. The Andrew Olson Foundation was created to promote Andrew’s spirit of compassion, strength and love.