We all want our children to grow up healthy and strong. Many of us get our wish. Some of us don't. For some, family life is changed forever by the single word that no one wants to hear...cancer.
Cancer in children is a medical, emotional, and even spiritual trial that affects everyone in the family. Fortunately, there are doctors here in Shreveport who can help. The St. Jude affiliate at LSU Health saw 2,500 pediatric cancer patients just last year.
Here are the stories of two local families that are dealing with life after their child receives the diagnosis that will change their lives forever.
It's Halloween, but instead of costume parties at pre-school, pediatric cancer patients dress-up for chemo-therapy.
"Big boy, good job, Brock, All right!" said a nurse.
Brock Cassell, 4, doesn't remember life before leukemia. His young mother, Mandy, got the news when her son was only 18 months old.
"Now, we're just in maintenance dose chemo. Been going through this for 2 and half years," said Cassell.
Now she spends four to five hours every Thursday watching Brock endure being poked and prodded. It's definitely not easy on either one of them.
"Pray about it, rely on God, put faith in him that he's going to heal him," said Cassell.
"That's blood, yucky blood," said Brock.
That's life for this family.
When there's life after cancer you get to embark on a brand new adventure. Like the Jennings. They get to play, have fun and make up for lost time. Cooper Jennings was the same age as Brock when doctors found a tumor the size of a softball on his adrenal gland.
"Now, we have another check-up in January on that check-up will put him three years cancer-free," said Wendy Jennings, mom of cancer survivor.
Almost three years have passed since then. Cooper is cancer free, full of life and loves to tease his big sister. His mom, Wendy, thanks god she still has both of them.
"Neuroblastoma has a one in four chance of survival," said Jennings.
She believes it was an experimental treatment saved Cooper's life.
"We recovered from surgery, radiation, stem cell transplant, antibodies," said Jennings.
The only way she could cope was to stay positive no matter what.
"I never doubted because this was my son and he has a purpose and he is supposed to be here," said Jennings.
She says cancer doesn't just affect the patient. It affects, and changes everyone in the family's circle of love. Little stuff matters less, big stuff matter more.
"You may be a little smaller, you may not run as fast, but you're here and you're alive and God has given you your life," said Jennings.
For now, living without cancer is a reality for the Jennings. For Mandy and Brock Cassell it's still just a dream, but one they hope will come true sooner rather than later.
There's a reason for the Cassell's optimism. Doctors have told the family that four year old Brock Cassell could be done with treatment around Thanksgiving when doctors hope to be able to give him the "all clear."
You can "like" him on Facebook by clicking here.