Boy & Girl of the Year

2017 Triangle Boy & Girl of the Year 

2017 Boy of the Year
Jackson Donahoe

Jackson Donahoe

When we made the decision to relocate from Burnsville, Minnesota, finding the right community to raise our two young children was a top priority.  When we started looking at houses in the Heritage subdivision of Wake Forest, we quickly realized that we had found the community we would call home.  When we arrived at our new home in March 2007, we quickly became involved in multiple levels of our new community. 

Then, on May 2, 2016, the phone rang.  It was the doctor who had removed an enlarged mass from Jackson?s neck just one week earlier.  The diagnosis from pathology was a rare form of Hodgkin?s Lymphoma, called Nodular Lymphocyte-Predominate Hodgkin?s Lymphoma (NLPHL, for short).  Further tests would show that it was Stage 3, based upon affected lymph nodes being both above and below the abdomen.  Doctors were called, appointments were set and next steps were put in motion very quickly.  We, though, were in a state of frozen shock, not completely sure what would happen next.

What happened next was a miracle. Thanks to our incredible community of friends and family, we started calling, talking, researching and reading.  Stories of encouragement were everywhere, along with assurance that we were literally in the best place in the country, with both UNC and Duke Children?s Hospitals right across town.  We chose UNC Hospitals, and were put under the expert care of the incredible Dr. Stuart Gold, Dr. Jennie Hart, and our team of loving caregivers.  A treatment plan was created, and chemotherapy quickly began. 

Sensing the overwhelming emotional and financial burden that comes with such a life-changing event, friends and businesses alike in Wake Forest and the Heritage subdivision rose to the challenge.  Decals for #jacksonDstrong were created by a generous neighbor, and a movement was born.  The local CrossFit hosted a fundraiser attended by nearly 200 supporters.  Owners of various in-home businesses hosted campaigns to raise money and awareness.  The Gatehouse Tavern, along with several local businesses, hosted an afternoon fundraiser with live music, an auction and food and drink.  Local homebuilder, Capitol City Homes, hosted a charity golf tournament. 

But, perhaps the most unified statement of love and care for us was the steady stream of messages of encouragement that adorned a roundabout just down the street from our home.  Every third Friday, when we would head to UNC Hospital at 6:00 AM for chemo treatments, a banner with inspiring words of encouragement would give Jackson the confidence and assurance he would need to fight hard that day.  Then, on the morning of the last chemo session, it wasn?t just a banner celebrating the last planned treatment. We were also greeted by over 100 people in the roundabout, cheering and clapping for Jackson.  The moment completely encapsulated the support this amazing community has shown in ensuring Jackson - that no one fights alone.

Now, the next step is keeping cancer in remission!  With Jackson having his follow up scans and appointments every three month.  We are looking forward to our next chapter, including watching Jackson get back to golf, football, friends, chorus, being in his first musical in the Spring 2017 and most of all, talking to all ages about childhood cancer. 

 

- Sommer & Jeff Donahoe

 

2017 Girl of the Year
Ady Brickhouse

Ady Brickhouse

Adyson (Ady for short) is an energetic and outgoing five year old. She lives with her mom, dad, and big brother, Julian.  She has beautiful blonde hair and loves kittens, dance, and school.  She cares deeply for her friends in kindergarten and has a huge loving spirit.  If you saw her today, you would have no clue what she has faced in her short five years of life. 

Adyson has a port in her chest for the chemo that she has received, and she just finished a two and a half year treatment plan for high risk pre-b acute lymphoblastic leukemia.  The vivid memory of May 17, 2014 is forever etched in our brains.  It was on that day that we heard some of the hardest words that no parent wants to hear about their child, ?Ady has cancer?.  It was the day that ?normal life,? as we knew it, stopped.  She was two years old and was happy, outgoing, and acting like every other two year old, but the bruises on her shins brought us to her pediatrician?s office - who quickly sent us to the Duke Children?s ER.  Blood work quickly confirmed what the doctors were already suspecting; Ady had leukemia, and she would to start chemo almost immediately. Two days later, Ady had a port inserted in her chest, her first lumbar puncture, a bone marrow aspiration and began chemo along with blood and platelet transfusions. Absolutely everything was a blur; every doctor that we met, every piece of info that they gave us on this disease, every word of the next steps and prognosis, just a blur. It was all just a bad dream that was now our reality. That Friday, Ady celebrated her third birthday in the hospital.

After 28 days of treatment we received the best words, ?Ady was in remission?. While we were thrilled by these words, we also knew that treatment was not even close to done.  The treatment plan consisted of several chemo cocktails and multiple phases.  The next nine months were some of the hardest to walk through. Ady endured many hospital stays. The chemo had many side effects, and her hair fell out twice. She fought oral meds, and she had multiple feeding tubes to help her with weight gain. We lived in constant fear of fevers and late night trips to the ER. In addition, the last year and a half has been filled with finger pricks, lumbar punctures, weight struggles, oral chemo, additional hospital stays, and blood checks. 

On February 23, 2015, Ady began the maintenance phase of treatment, and we slowly started reintroducing fun things, normal things, into our lives. We returned to church and started inviting people to our home again. September 23, 2016 is another day engrained in our brains - the day Ady took her last dose of chemo. Ady will be closely monitored for the next five years with regular blood checks and doctor visits.

Ady is now in school, loving church, taking dance, and looking forward to all the fun things five year olds do. She understands that she has had cancer, and when we mention others having cancer she often says ?I have had cancer too?.  The last two years have gone by so quickly in some respects, yet so slow in others.  Leukemia not only affected Adyson, but our entire family and network of friends.  We have all had to endure the effects of leukemia, yet our precious Ady hasn't let it get her down.  She is a fighter and remains an inspiration for so many people. Ady has now had three months of great doctor visits, and she looks forward to the port being removed in 2017!

- Karryn & Kevin Brickhouse 

 

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