Thank you for responding to our call to water. My name is LesLee Hacker. I am the mother to two kids, Jonathan 22 and Lauren (Lolo) 19. I have been married for 33 years and have had a fairly adventurous life as a military wife and mom to two active kids. It seemed our life was following the average path of working and raising kids until on 12/12/12 my daughter, then 10 years old was diagnosed with Acute Myelocytic Leukemia. She walked into the hospital on December 11th and then after fighting through harsh chemotherapy and intense illnesses finally left the hospital in remission on June 4, 2013. Like most kids with cancer, she did not leave the hospital unscathed. She went into congestive heart failure within the first week of treatment, she fought sepsis, and a couple of stays in Pediatric Intensive Care. The isolation, leukemia, and chemotherapy took an incredible physical toll on Lolo.
We spent the next 3 1/2 years building our life again, with many new lessons and different priorities. We learned to find joy in every moment we could. We faced some problems and grew tighter as a family. We are still trying to figure it all out.
I originally wrote this blog to share our stories, the resources we used to fight Lauren’s cancer, and to draw more attention to the plight of children and families battling leukemia. Our family shared Lauren’s story on her Caringbridge website. We were surprised to receive letters from so many other families dealing with pediatric cancer or their own struggles. Lauren’s sweet smile and her fighting spirit inspired so many people. Her story also brought many people to pray for her. Despite her suffering and her long, hard battle with leukemia, our family was able to share many happy experiences along the way, such as having Taylor Swift come visit and making such wonderful friends with hospital staff, the Creighton University volleyball players, and having a visit from her classmates on a snowy day making snow angels outside her window.
Unfortunately, Lolo’s leukemia relapsed and she left the rest of her 8th grade year at St. Margaret Mary School to spend the next 4 months in the hospital. Against some terrifying odds, Lolo survived her leukemia a second time. She started her freshman year at Marian high school bald, thin, and worn out. However, nothing could keep Lolo down. She was so weak from treatment that even walking the halls at school and carrying her backpack were a heavy burden. She left school each day and had radiation on her leg, where she had a myeloid sarcoma, at UNMC and passed out from exhaustion. It took a few years to regain her stamina. She still doesn’t have the energy of an average kid, but she has more spirit than anyone I know.
Fast forward, Lolo graduated from high school in 2020 in the middle of a pandemic and started college at Creighton University. She is in the Nursing program and hopes to be a pediatric oncology nurse. Jonathan just graduated from Creighton as a paramedic. Over the last 5 years, our family started a non-profit called Lolo’s Angels that funds pediatric cancer treatment and research, runs blood and bone marrow drives, raises awareness about pediatric cancer, and conducts service projects for kids and families of kids with cancer. The impact of this service on our community has filled us all with wonder. We realize that even the smallest gestures towards change have a positive impact. It is tough running a non-profit, especially one that is 100% volunteer, but we have learned a lot about the process and about ourselves. The best part of it all is that the people that show up to help are the best and define all that is good in the world.
Our family has been battered and worn through this journey. We have weathered the storm, but have kept our hearts open to learn, change, and grow. We hope the prayers keep flowing in for Lolo that she may continue to experience good health. We finally celebrated Lolo being cancer free on July 2, 2021-8/12 years after her first diagnosis. The blog that was started to share Lolo’s experience and the impact on our family has been a source of growth for us and a chance to share some wisdom with others. The wisdom that is shared isn’t necessarily from my words, but through the mistakes, the confusion, and the telling of the experience. To be clear, I write not assuming that I have anything grand or profound to share, but like most things in life, the real lived experiences of our day to day struggles allow each of us to learn from each other. My belief is that life is circular and not linear; that learning is also that way. It feels so good to be alive and be present in each day. Lolo’s story broke my heart open and made me want so much to find peace and joy in our family and for our family. I want to embrace the life we now have. Going forward that is what I hope to write about……Embracing the life we now have and LOVING where we are in the present! The title of our blog is the idea that water is healing, calm, and the source for all us to live. Before Lolo was diagnosed with cancer, we were thirsty, but we took so much for granted and we were distracted by too many things. Life got real for us pretty quick and what was important became clear. Now, we have a chance to live differently. The Call to Water is a practice to keep that peace and calm in sight. #Go, Lolo, Go