The similarities between a thunderstorm and childhood cancer are striking. They both come suddenly, wreak havoc, and can leave a trail of destruction behind them. While we know that it is very rare for lightening to strike twice in the same place, it isn’t impossible. Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela averages 28 lightning strikes a minute during the driest part of the year. Imagine how many times it hits the same place there! Since childhood cancer is considered as rare as a lightning strike, most people won’t ever face this fight once. Shockingly, Alyssa Barton got struck twice.
Her first fight began when her daughter, Maia, started experiencing random pains, losing weight, and began having trouble breathing. After she collapsed at home, Alyssa found the answer to Maia’s symptoms in the emergency room: b-cell leukemia.
“There were bumps in her treatment at first.” Alyssa recalled. “She had to relearn how to walk due to severe pain in her body and she was in physical therapy for months. But after that she was a textbook patient. She was rarely in the hospital and got to go to school every day.”
Maia remembers the road being a long one, but she’s made it to the other side. She is now twenty-one and ready to start her senior year at the University of Colorado.
“My cancer story seemed ordinary through my eyes,” Maia explained. “But last August I found out that my sister, Ariana, was diagnosed with leukemia as well. That makes my story a little different.”
Ariana’s path to diagnosis was quite different than her sister’s. She began noticing excessive bruising on her legs. Her wellness physical showed nothing abnormal, but the bruising persisted. She was about to go on a trip to Israel when Alyssa saw her legs and scheduled a quick doctor’s appointment to check things out before leaving. That is when she learned that cancer had indeed struck again.
“Nothing presented the same way as Maia’s cancer,” said Alyssa. “So I never expected to be back on the oncology floor again. I thought it might be mono, but cancer was the last thing on my radar.”
Ariana’s treatment experience has been the exact opposite of Maia’s. She has had prolonged hospital stays, experienced sickness and nausea, and had several complications. She has suffered emotionally as watched all of her friends leave for college while she had to stay at home and defer her freshman year. She’s doing better now and has managed to find a silver lining in it all.
“My silver lining is defined by the unbreakable bond I developed with my parents as we grew even closer during this past year,” she shared. “I realized I loved them more than anything in the world. I have also found a confidence in myself that I never knew I had.”
Ariana still has over a year of treatment remaining, but she will be doing it in Colorado with her sister as she starts the freshman year that cancer delayed. She’s ready to go and excited about what the future holds. Both of these amazing young ladies have fought their cancers and have now decided to fight for other children through September’s CURE’s Kids Fight Cancer One Day at a Time. Each sister wrote her own story to share in the hopes of raising money to fund better cures for children with cancer. The entire family is committed to making a difference in the fight.
“Watching your child go through cancer treatment changes you and watching two of them changes you forever,” Alyssa said. “In this day and age, there should be better treatments. There just should. We’re talking about our kids and we need to step up and take care of them.”
CURE believes that also. Every day in September we will be sharing stories of amazing heroes like Ariana and Maia with the hopes of raising awareness of the issues and raising money to fund the research that will make a difference for all children. Will you make it a point to join us and read to these stories? Together we can make a difference in the lives of children.