My name is Kathleen Henry and my husband Robert is the battalion S3 operations NCO for a Military Police Battalion. We have been stationed at Ft. Bragg since 2002. In 2008, just after turning 2, our son Collin was diagnosed with pre-B cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. My husband was deployed at the time and was sent home on emergency leave and thankfully, was allowed to stay home. We had to spend two or three days a week at the hospital in Chapel Hill for Collin’s chemotherapy, so finances soon became an issue. Robert volunteered for multiple deployments to supplement the income I was unable to bring in while caring for Collin. In 2009, he received orders to go to Illinois and become an ROTC instructor at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. The kids and I stayed behind for continuity of care at UNC. It was a difficult decision, but we were thankful that Robert would be in America, in a much safer job.
I thought I would finally be able to sleep a little easier, that we might be able to make it through this. Then in October 2010, at age six, our middle son Patrick was diagnosed with Stage II Hepatoblastoma, a very rare and aggressive form of liver cancer. He underwent an eight-hour surgery and three rounds of chemotherapy. Patrick completed his chemotherapy in 2011 and shows no signs of cancer!
Collin’s treatment was much more intensive. He received hundreds of doses of chemotherapy, some even through spinal taps straight into his cerebrospinal fluid. During his last routine spinal tap, they discovered more leukemia. After being off chemotherapy for just 17 days, Collin suffered an isolated central nervous system relapse. We were devastated. His doctors began another aggressive treatment plan that would last two years. We left Chapel Hill for just a few weeks total during this time.
Our family was tired, and being separated was taking its toll. Our other children, Lacey and Patrick, were so strong, but understandably they started struggling emotionally with their brother’s relapse. Being a military family, we had no relatives nearby. We had relied heavily on friends to help us keep it together, but eventually it became too much for them to handle. Watching our children suffer was more than our friends could bear, and eventually their help ran out. I felt like it was the kids and me against the world.
In October 2011, we found the Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill. It really became a crashing place for us. We wanted to spend as much time with Collin as possible, so we would stay late at the hospital until they kicked us out and then come back to RMH to grab a bite to eat and sleep for a few hours. It was our saving grace; we were never turned away. Even when the House was full, they offered us vouchers to stay at local hotels and provided our family with gas cards. Through it all, the Ronald McDonald House was our rock. There was always food made by volunteers and activities for Lacey and Patrick. Their help never ran out, it was often the only thing I could count on! I know my family would have been lost without them, and we wouldn’t have been able to get Collin and Patrick the incredible treatment they needed to save their lives.