On August 26, 2018, parents Laura and Ryan rushed their eight-year-old daughter, Shelby, to the hospital—she was having trouble breathing and her lips were turning blue. After a few chest x-rays, doctors diagnosed her with a respiratory syncytial virus infection (RSV). They also told the family that they found a mass, and that Shelby would need to be relocated to Shands Jacksonville Medical Center. 

Laura rode with Shelby in the ambulance for the five-hour drive while Ryan and Laura’s brother followed. Upon arrival, they met with oncologist Dr. Bill Slayton. He knew right away that the mass was cancer. “We were not expecting this to be the diagnosis at all,” shared Laura, “and we were completely heartbroken for our sweet girl.”

A biopsy of the mass, as well as a bone marrow biopsy, confirmed the news. Shelby was officially diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma on August 28, 2018. Shelby completed her first few chemo treatments at Shands before being transferred to Sacred Heart, which was closer to their family’s home. After her third and fourth rounds of chemo, a scan showed that the mass had shrunk drastically. “We were so ecstatic to hear this news,” said Laura.

Shelby finished her last chemo at the end of December. Three weeks of radiation followed to ensure that cancer would not return. Shelby and her family received great news after the radiation: Her latest scan showed no signs of cancer! 

Throughout their journey, Shelby and her family have faced many challenges. “We were tested mentally and emotionally throughout this entire experience,” they said. It was also important for the family to try to keep some normalcy for their son while continuing to be strong for Shelby. To accomplish this, Laura and Ryan took turns staying with Shelby at the hospital while the other parent would take care of the homefront. “Thankfully, we had support from family and friends who would sit with her,” they said, “so we could get some time away from the hospital.”

Every child who has been diagnosed with childhood cancer inspires us to Rally On to find better treatments with fewer long-term side effects and, ultimately, cures. Please join us in the fight against childhood cancer by making a donation or setting up your own Rally fundraiser today.

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