Meet the Hammer Family
Four words no parent ever wants to hear are "Your child has cancer." The day before Thanksgiving 2016, just a month after his 4th birthday, our world was turned upside down when Alex was diagnosed with T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma (T-LLy).
Alex had been sick for a few weeks with what we thought were severely swollen tonsils, glands and adenoids. After a trip to the ENT, mono was ruled out before proceeding to remove his tonsils. To our surprise, the blood test for mono came back positive. Since there is no treatment for mono, we were told to let it run its course and things would get better. Well, they didn’t. Alex was having a lot of difficulty breathing since everything was so swollen. We were told to see his regular pediatrician for another opinion. It was then that our pediatrician took one look at Alex and turned pale. I knew something was wrong. Another doctor was called into the room to evaluate him. When they stepped out of the room to discuss, I knew something wasn't right. I was told to go home and wait for the doctor’s phone call; he said he was going to get Alex an appointment to see a specialist that same day.
Not more than 30 minutes later I got the phone call and was told to head to HUMC Pediatric ER immediately; there would be a team of doctors waiting for Alex's arrival... They were going to run some tests but we think he may have Lymphoma. When we got there, everything happened so fast. Cat scans, blood tests, X-rays. I remember we sat in a small 10-by-10 room in the pediatric ER for nearly 6 hours, to finally have a team of 12 doctors enter the room. They all pulled up chairs and had somber looks on their faces and it was then that my heart sank. "Your son has a mass in his chest and multiple masses in his neck". Wait...... What?? How?? When?? These were all the questions that raced through my mind. I immediately went in to Dr. Mom mode and tried to talk through all of the medical jargon I've learned over the years and tried to make sense of it all. The next few days were like being in the eye of a tornado. So many emotions, so many decisions, so many questions. Everything happened so fast. There was no time to prepare for what we were about to go through. But as with every parent that goes through this, you have no choice but to roll with it all and push forward.
Flash forward to spring 2019. We are nearly a few months from the end of Alex's treatment. But there never is and will never be a moment that I am not scared for him. The fear will always be there. Cancer has changed our family’s life. Although I do not wish this upon my worst enemy, this diagnosis has made me realize how many good people there are in this world. The people you never thought would rise up to the occasion were some of the people on the frontlines. Many beautiful relationships have formed because of this that we are so grateful for.
One of the most positive relationships has been with the Sunrise Wheels Program during Alex’s time at Hackensack and also with Alex and Alanna’s first summer at Sunrise Day Camp-Pearl River last summer. Sunrise Day Camp was talked up by more than a handful of people! We first heard of it through Sunrise on Wheels. They told us about the camp knowing Alex would just love it! Many families we became close with along our journey also talked about how great it was. When we went to visit, we were so amazed. All of the claims were validated!
This was our first summer and first walk for Sunrise. Both Alex and Alanna have made some amazing friends! I really think they both appreciated connecting with other children and siblings like them and being able to actually do things and have fun together. It’s nice to be with them outside the hospital environment.
Being an ambassador is extremely special to us. As soon as we were able to, we’ve been trying to do as much as we can to spread Childhood Cancer Awareness in many ways. Until you are on the end of receiving, you never truly understand what it means to have people rise to the occasion and donate to the cause. This camp has created so many great memories in the short period of time. Being able to help and be the face for the walk is truly an honor. - Krista & Adam Hammer
“Camp makes me happy because it’s special. No other camp in this world has cancer stuff. I’m glad to have a camp like this and I’m glad there are people to do this for us. I’m glad other people with other cancer can come and play. And I love the treehouse. Sunrise is the best camp.” - Alex Hammer
“It gives siblings and patients the opportunity to forget about whatever is going on with them and just let everything go. Camp is awesome and there is always something to do. Some days there are volunteers that come in and set up fun activities, games, carnivals, and there are fun prizes. The camp is very fun and I am so glad that people going through this can have some time off just to be a kid.”
- Alanna Hammer