TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Every four minutes, another family faces an ugly reality, and their life is completely changed by just one word – cancer.
“What does she bring you at the hospital?” asked Isabel Rodriguez to her youngest of four sons, Matt.
Sitting in her lap, Rodriguez’s son Matt responds “snacks,” remembering his time in the hospital.
“It was like Sunday’s would hit, and he would have a fever, and then he started showing symptoms of being tired a lot, and we saw some bruising too,” explains Rodriguez.
As the saying goes, boys will be boys. Rodriguez thought the bruises came from just playing rough. Then, Valentine’s Day she was given the news she never thought was an option.
“We were told he has b-cell acute Leukemia,” said Rodriguez. “As parents we want to make them feel better and we can’t, you know, we feel guilty about that sometimes.”
On Valentines Day, a day where people show how much they love those in their life, Matt would find out how powerful his family’s love was.
Going to Cook’s Hospital in Fort Worth weekly, Matt is now in remission. However, it will be another 2 1/2 years of steroids and a lifetime of seeing doctors, before he is considered “healthy.”
“I feel sometimes it’s such a lonely world because we are so secluded from everybody. We can’t really be around people, but to know somebody is going through that, they’ve been there,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez describes herself as someone who didn’t know much about child cancer. Seeing ads on TV, she admits she would quickly turn the channel, saying the commercials were too sad to watch.
When Rodriguez found the Gold Network, she was grateful others know what she is going through. More than 1,800 children are diagnosed every year in Texas.
The Gold Network was founded by three mothers wanting to contact East Texas families who are taking care of a child that’s been diagnosed with cancer.
“I just knew that I didn’t want my son’s diagnosis and his journey to be for nothing,” said Heather Rucker.
Heather is one of the founders of The Gold Network.
Just 7 month’s old, Rucker’s son Sawyer, was deemed “Sawyer the warrior” after being diagnosed with Leukemia.
“He was a healthy boy until all of a sudden he wasn’t and we were rushed to Dallas, he was not expected to live through the day,” said Rucker. “In an instant, I became a cancer mom, and that became my world.”
That’s when Rucker realized just how under-funded pediatric cancer is.
“These drugs need to be improved and better therapies. One of the side effects of my son’s chemotherapy is that he could get cancer,” explained Rucker.
Connecting families through an annual 5k, featuring local heroes, this year it’s going virtual.
“It’s a little different this year, but like I said, cancer isn’t cancelled, the run isn’t cancelled, it just looks different.
Registration for the 5k is open from until Saturday, September 19, 2020 at midnight.
Each runner receives a t-shirt and medal, ” you can run, you can walk, or you can donate. It all makes a huge difference!” says Rucker.
To register for the 5k click here.