Everett spit up his meds, so there were a few times where I actually wore a raincoat and gloves in the clinic. I laugh about it now because it seems ridiculous, but when you’re in the middle of it all, you just improvise and do what you have to do.

Image a pregnant mom holding her child with her husband standing beside her

Danielle: My pregnancy with Avery began the same week that Everett got sick. I took a pregnancy test on Sunday, told Seth (who was out of town on business) on Tuesday, and then Everett started with a fever on Thursday that just wouldn’t stop. He was 19 months old at the time. He was so sick and only wanted to sleep on me, but then he started to pee through his diaper because of all of the steroids and chemo. I worried about it being absorbed into my skin during the early stages of my pregnancy, so I would put puppy training pads across my chest and lap. He went through a patch where he spit up his meds (which ended up on me), so there were a few times where I actually wore a raincoat and gloves in the clinic. I laugh about it now because it seems ridiculous, but when you’re in the middle of it all, you just improvise and do what you have to do.

Then the pandemic hit, and suddenly there were so many new- and hard-implications for us as parents of a very sick toddler who was also about to become a big brother.

Danielle: This happened in the fall of 2019 — when cancer and early pregnancy symptoms were the “only” things we thought we’d have to contend with. Then the pandemic hit, and suddenly there were so many new and hard implications for us as parents of a very sick toddler who was also about to become a big brother. My parents live in California, and Seth’s are in Georgia. Right when I was approaching my due date, Everett was in the middle of his delayed intensification treatment, which made his immune system especially compromised. On top of that, the protocols for traveling during COVID made it nearly impossible for either set of grandparents to come and be with him when it was time for me to have the baby.

Seth: I drove her to the hospital and dropped her off with her bag, we kissed each other goodbye, and then I watched her C section live on Facetime with Everett. I came back and picked her up three days later and met Avery for the first time.

Seth: Sometimes you just want extra hands and arms, if not to hold the baby, then to run the vacuum or push a swing, clean up after dinner. Because of our situation and because of COVID, we haven’t been able to have anyone help. We’ve always watched March Madness every spring, so now our motto is “Survive, then advance.” Just get through this round. Then think about the next. Our first opportunity to finally be around other family — and maybe get a date night — will be this month when we go to the beach. We’re cautiously optimistic, and yet, cancer can be unpredictable so we’re trying not to get our hopes up too much.

Danielle:  We’re grateful that he’s doing well and amazingly, never lost his boundless energy. Me, on the other hand? There are so many days when I feel like I’m on the verge of losing it, and sometimes I do — because it’s just all been so much. We get to nap time, then figure out how to get to dinnertime, and bedtime. It’s like being in a marathon, except that you feel like you’re sprinting the entire time. For us, the finish line is right before his 4th birthday — when he’ll finish his treatment. If there’s a silver lining to this, it’s that he was so young when he was first diagnosed, he probably won’t be able to recall too much of those first months in the clinic. We’re hoping that time will dull some of the sharper edges of this for him — and for us.

Image child sitting on a swing in backyard

Everett’s cancer journey is not over.
And for the next child diagnosed with cancer, it is just beginning.

As we recognize Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, make your donation so a family will never face their child’s cancer alone. You can make sure the next hero family receives financial assistance when they need it the most, and emotional support through every personal note, email, phone call, and visit. As the world looks for hope, guidance, and support, our childhood cancer families don’t have to look far. Hope, guidance, and support are the pillars of Connor’s Heroes mission.

About the authors:

Kristin Seward
Kristin is a portrait photographer and photojournalist whose passion is finding and telling stories of hope within the community. She became involved with Connor’s Heroes after spending time with Katie Tyson and her family. Katie and Jim’s son, Callen, was diagnosed with leukemia. Over the course of two years, Kristin documented several other Connor’s Heroes hero families — both during and after treatment — for the “Heroes of RVA” and “RVA Cures” campaigns. She is honored to be able to do this project with her dear friend and fellow Compassion Photographer, Patience Salgado.

Patience Salgado
Patience Salgado is a Compassion Photographer who has had the honor of serving and photographing families in the passages of both birth and pediatric hospice for the last 12 years. The Salgado family found themselves on their own medical journey when their son Jamie was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in the summer of 2019. Walking this path together has solidified her heart belief that there is beauty in the dark and power in the light. Her hope is to see and honor each part of your story and reflect all the beautiful humanity it holds.

Image child hugging the leg of his mom standing in their backyard