Relay for Life: 7-year-old finds strength in family and friends

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Final installment in 2010 series

By The Staff

The LaRue County Relay for Life is May 14 at Hodgenville Elementary School. This is the fifth and final in a series of cancer survivor stories to bring awareness to this cause.

“Cancer is the one word no parent wants to hear and no one should have to go through,” said Linda Long. But when Todd and Linda heard the diagnosis last fall for their second-grade daughter Ashley, reality set in for the young family.

Three weeks before the diagnosis of acute myelogenous leukemia, Ashley experienced night terrors, began to sleep in class and complained of leg aches. The family did not dream that the three different symptoms in a 7-year-old were connected and neither did doctors. Ashley was prescribed a multi-vitamin and was told to come back in two weeks.

But before the two weeks were over, Ashley could barely walk. On Nov. 9, she developed a high fever and was taken to Hardin Memorial Hospital. With a white blood count over 100,000, doctors felt sure the diagnosis was leukemia, but sent Ashley by ambulance to Kosair for confirmation and further treatment.

Cancer cells consumed over 66 percent of her body. A strict regiment of new blood, platelets and chemotherapy became a way of life for Ashley. After the first round, she was not in remission so she went straight into round two with a 69-day hospital stay.

Then doctors told the family that since Ashley was such a high risk, a bone marrow transplant was necessary. The entire family was tested, but 10-year-old Austin proved to be the hero – a perfect match. Tests indicate the bone marrow transplant is working at 96.5 percent.

The family has had to make many concessions, but they say it is all worth it for Ashley. Linda has taken a leave of absence from her job and only left the hospital for a bit of Christmas shopping. Linda’s mother moved into the family home to take care of Austin and Todd visits every other night.

The Longs said Hodgenville Elementary has been more than supportive. Male staff members shaved their heads in support and Ashley’s teachers visit and check in through the Long’s Caring Bridge Blog. Elementary students and staff collected money from both campuses to help the family with travel and other expenses.

The journey is far from over, but the family feels blessed to live in this small community. And if everything goes as planned, Ashley and her family plan on attending this Friday’s Relay for Life at her home school, HES.

Submitted by

Kathy Ross