At the end of 2020, our son Vince was working hard, as usual. During wrestling practice on December 27th, he got his second bloody nose in two weeks. This one seemed like it would not stop. After a handful of minutes it finally calmed down and he went back into practice. Three days later he woke us up in the middle of the night complaining of a fever. His temperature was 103 degrees. After giving him some children's Tylenol to calm the fever, we took him to the pediatrician the next morning, December 31st. Thankfully, his pediatrician directed us to go to Children's hospital. We found our way to UNC Children's Hospital (Chapel Hill, NC) and what we learned there changed our lives forever.
Vince was diagnosed with cancer (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia) at about 7:30pm on New Year's Eve 2020. We were blind-sided! Just two weeks earlier he had competed in a wrestling tournament and won it by going 4-0. Heck, just three days earlier he was participating in wrestling practice!
Getting this news was devastating. Understanding the upcoming treatment plan compounded the anguish. Vince would have to sacrifice at least two and a half years of his life just to get a chance to live. As you can imagine, the mental and physical toll on a child is immense. It's well documented. However, it's equally as tough on the parents or caretakers. Parents are suddenly confronted with the fact that their child may die, as well as suffer with side-effects and the possibility of future effects from the treatment. Feelings of fear and uncertainty together with high caregiving demands may predispose parents toward emotional stress reactions after the child's diagnosis. Even more, the physical demands on the parents are enormous. We were often physically separated during Vince’s first year of treatment for ALL, considering that he had 114 visits to UNC Children's Hospital in 2021 alone; with more than 40 overnight stays. Keeping the family together, positive and productive was, at times, a nearly impossible task.
After 860 days of consecutive treatments, Vince's therapy has been completed. On May 5th, 2023 he rang the bell - symbolizing the end of his cancer journey. Our focus is now on others. Call it: “Paying it Forward”! This Foundation was created to help other families and their children understand that they are cared for and loved. We look forward to becoming a positive impact on each child’s recovery and a reminder to his/her parents that this destructive disease can, and will be overcome.
Sincerely, Scott and Kim Van Almen
(Photo: left to right, Vince, Kim, Scott, Shelby and Whitney. Dogs: Daisy and Rocco)