Shawna Farrar says her son Ramsey has gone through "more than any little boy should have to go through." That's because Ramsey, only four years old, is already two years into his journey with cancer, and has another year of treatment scheduled.
a life-changing diagnosis
The Farrar family's world changed radically in February 2009, when Ramsey was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Since then, the family has experienced firsthand the power of hope and encouragement that CaringBridge provides during such an emotionally trying time.
One day, Ramsey started to feel ill and his temperature rose above 102 degrees. After several doctor visits, examinations, medical scans and a lot of pain for Ramsey, tests indicated that he had ALL. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a "liquid" tumor, or cancer of the blood, that starts in the bone marrow and spreads to the bloodstream. As the most common pediatric cancer, ALL accounts for 35 percent of all cancers in children.
As Ramsey started his long journey through treatment, his parents Joseph and Shawna launched his CaringBridge website after their social worker at Emanuel Children's Hospital recommended the free service.
Shawna's childhood lukemia blog, which began as a wonderful way to let all of their family and friends know how Ramsey was doing at one time became a healing experience for her. "Well, believe it or not I really look forward to doing this each night. It's sort of therapeutic for me," Shawna wrote only weeks after Ramsey's diagnosis. Shawna found that her favorite part of CaringBridge was reading the encouraging notes from family and friends who follow Ramsey's leukemia fight.
Ramsey began chemotherapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia the day after he was diagnosed, treatment that continues today. He had surgery to put in his port, received a catheter twice, endured countless back and leg pokes, and needed a feeding tube at one point. Ramsey takes chemo orally every day, once a month in his port, and once every three months in his spine.
the power of connection
During treatment, the Make-A-Wish Foundation granted Ramsey and his family a once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit Disneyland, spend time with Mickey Mouse and Goofy, and share time together away from the pressures of hospital visits, charts and constant worry. As Ramsey's father said, "Just being able to get away with the family and get away from the stresses that go along with your child having a life-threatening illness is amazing."
Through online journaling, Ramsey's parents log the ups, the downs, struggles and gratitude regularly. They share words of prayer, words of love, words of hope and words of power, and receive childhood leukemia support in return. They've learned that it is okay to feel - and express - a full range of emotions, and that others will understand, reply and support them while they battle this disease together.
Shawna continues to chronicle Ramsey's story. His prognosis is good and his last leukemia treatment is scheduled for April, 2012.