Sunday, January 5, 2014

Mission: Unbeatable Mom - Case 1 - Karley Van Zante Pope by Hilary

I want to introduce you to the person who inspired Mission: Unbeatable Mom (go here to read more about the Mission).

This is Karley Van Zante Pope, one of my high school classmates. She's a mother to 2 adorable children, Ethan (almost 6) and Sienna (4). 

(How is that for a mega-watt smile?!)

Although we haven't kept in touch since we graduated, we are friends on Facebook, and during the past several months, she has inspired me with her faith, her ability to find and create fun with her children during what must be an almost unbearable time, and her bright smile.

That smile is what I remember most about her from our time together in high school – it truly does bring in the sunshine.  And she keeps on flashing it, even in the face of fear, sadness, and stress.

Here's her story:

In the months leading up to July 2013, her son Ethan was getting very tired easily. He couldn't ride his bike to the end of their street and back, and struggled to climb the stairs to ride the waterslides at the water park.

Karley mentioned this extreme tiredness to Ethan's doctor when he went in for an ear infection. The doctor recommended a blood draw after he finished the course of antibiotics. At the follow up appointment, Karley's husband Corey mentioned the extreme tiredness to a different doctor, who felt Ethan's spleen and recommended they get a blood test immediately. The date: July 11, 2013.

About 30 minutes after the blood draw, the doctor called Corey and said he should take Ethan to the ER immediately – he probably had leukemia.

Corey called Karley, who was at work, and told her she was on speaker phone, and she needed to remain calm.

Karley writes, "Ha! How do you stay calm with that news?!? I was so frustrated because it was 5 pm and traffic was horrible! It took me about 20 minutes to get to the ER … which I spent bawling and yelling out, 'Why Ethan?' But I felt much better when I reached the ER."

The doctor told her he believed Ethan had ALL Leukemia, the most common and curable type – treatment is successful about 95% of the time.

Then she saw Corey and Ethan making forts in the hospital room, and, she says, "I knew he would be okay."

Throughout the first month of chemotherapy, the Popes had so much support from their family and friends, and reassurance from doctors, that they felt like Ethan would be okay.

But when they went in for a blood test, which was supposed to show his cancer cells were gone and they could proceed with the next round of chemotherapy, they received bad news: the cancer was still there.

This put Ethan in the Very High Risk category.

"We were so unprepared to find out that Ethan's risk had moved, the cancer was stll there, his chances down the road of having the cancer return were much higher, and that they were preparing him for a stem cell transplant."

Then, a miracle happened: the doctors extended Ethan's induction round by 2 weeks, and the cancer disappeared!

Ethan will continue receiving chemotherapy for a couple more years.

Karley loves playing with her kids: Cabbage Patch Kids, Barbie dolls, Legos, dress up, and family games.

I've seen evidence of the joy she finds in parenting in so many of her Facebook posts – decorating the hospital room for Christmas, playing games in the hospital, painting faces, taking her daughter on a mommy-daughter date day, and taking the kids on a train ride.

Throughout Ethan's sickness, Karley and Corey have helped their children by showing them their faith in God, maintaining as much normalcy as possible, and having special time with just Sienna.

When doctors first diagnosed Ethan, they warned Karley and Corey that many marriages that go through the journey of a child with cancer, end in divorce. One doctor told them not to neglect their marriage, and friends whose child had had ALL 5 years before told them they'd each handle the situation differently.

"So from the beginning," Karley says, "Corey and I have continued our date nights and have talked openly about how we were feeling about the situation … we've written lists of the blessings that we had seen come out of it and the hopes we have for the future. We have seen what a good foundation our relationship had, and it has grown stronger as we have gone through this."

Throughout this experience, friends and family members have come forward to support the Popes – from offering food to cleaning house to bringing coffee and checking in. People have visited the hospital during the holidays, and have said they feel like they can handle many of the struggles that come their way after seeing the Popes' strength.

Karley's mom has been a huge source of inspiration.

"She is an amazing mom and grandma," Karley says.

She watches the kids 3 days per week, has turned her house into a preschool for them, and still babysits overnight monthly so Karley and Corey can have some alone time. She goes to doctors' appointments with the Popes and, Karley says, "She has taught me to lean on God when times get tough and has inspired me to be a better mom … and to love and cherish my kids."

She sounds amazing, right?

So, let's show her some love!

Karley would like to get a massage and a new hair 'do, and head out for wine tasting and dinner out. If there's time, she'd like to see a live show.

We can give her one day to relax and enjoy – together.

10% of the money raised through the fundraiser will go to Jacob's Heart, a Watsonville, CA organization helping families who are battling cancer.

Go here to donate to Karley's fundraiser now:

1 comment:

alicia said...

Karls is the best!!! What a perfect mom for this!!!!