Zoe’s older brother is autistic, so when her 2-year old brother began to show similar signs, her parents worked, saved, and planned, so that her mom could take a year off work to help with early intervention. Sarah, Zoe’s mom and a long-time teacher, was excited to be a stay-at-home mom for her 3 young children. She eagerly volunteered at school and spent hours helping the kids with school work.
“Right before Domingo’s third birthday, the year was almost up and I was all ready to go back to work. But then Zoe started getting sick,” Sarah remembers. “We had used up most of the money we had saved to allow me to stay home and my husband’s landscaping company was in its off-season. I couldn’t believe this was happening.”
This was in January of 2016. It all started because 4 year-old Zoe wasn’t feeling well and Sarah noticed she had small lumps on the back of her neck and the outside of her cheek. Off to the doctor they went.
“The doctor thought she may have an infected salivary gland, so he gave her antibiotics for that,” Sarah said. After a while, the antibiotics didn’t seem to be helping and the lumps weren’t going away, so Sarah turned to the internet to look for ‘worst case scenarios.’
“I like to be prepared for anything. I found there was a 9 in one million chance that it would be non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” Sarah stated. Another trip to the doctor resulted in more tests, including a biopsy.
The ear, nose and throat doctor called with biopsy results at 7 o’clock on a Friday night. Zoe was diagnosed with B-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“He told us to take Zoe to the ER RIGHT NOW. So we did. It was a 45-minute drive. They did more blood tests and scheduled her first treatment for that Tuesday,” Sarah recalled.
“As it turns out, we were lucky the infected lymph nodes were in her salivary glands, because the doctor ordered more tests faster. He said if they were in any other lymph nodes, they would have tried other treatments first,” she explained.
Zoe will undergo two years and eight months of chemotherapy. Generally, this form of cancer has a good prognosis, and the chemo should put it into remission.
However, Zoe’s system is immuno-compromised due to the cancer. During the past year, she has had shingles and a whole bunch of strange eye infections, and has been hospitalized many times, including spending Christmas in the ICU.
“Zoe has been a very good patient. She is very popular on the in-patient floor because she refuses to ‘be sick’. When she was in isolation with shingles, people just had to keep playing with her. She loved it,” Sarah said.
In addition to quickly running out of savings, Sarah said the hardest part has been leaving the boys at home with dad while she spends nights at the hospital with Zoe.
“Our social worker at the hospital is a very competent and wonderful woman who saved our life in many ways. We were on our last cent – we had organized everything very carefully so I could take the year off with my son, and then, nope. She helped us apply for help from Compass to Care,” Sarah said.
Compass to Care has been helping Zoe travel back and forth to the hospital for just over seven months, and Sarah finds great comfort in that.
“I can be totally broke and in my house, but as long as I can get Zoe to the hospital for treatment, it’s a huge relief off my mind and I know everything is going to be okay,” she explains.
“This is the first time in my life I haven’t been working to pay for everything. It’s very hard to accept financial help from others. I love that Compass to Care is super-practical and provides something we really need.”
The road to recovery is long and challenging.
Your support of Compass to Care is helping to make it accessible.
Did you know? Zoe loves her Dina Doll and has been helping us promote her.