INDIANAPOLIS — There's nothing to prepare you to hear the words "your child has cancer." Unfortunately, one Westfield couple was dealt that blow twice, when both of their children were diagnosed with cancer just months apart.
"Samantha had a low-grade fever on and off during the summer of 2019," Jeff Brown said. "She was ultimately diagnosed with Wilms tumor. She had a 2 1/2-pound tumor on her left kidney."
Samantha was 6 when she had to have her kidney removed.
Just as she wrapped up nearly 20 rounds of chemotherapy, another shocking diagnosis was revealed — this time, with her younger brother, Miles.
Miles' mother, Melissa, said her then-2-year-old son was visiting the doctor for a routine checkup for a pre-existing condition when he was diagnosed with Burkitt's leukemia. He had multiple tumors on both of his kidneys and his liver, and the cancer had spread to his bone marrow.
It's been almost two years now since Samantha's diagnosis. Today, she loves gymnastics, is a cheerleader and a Girl Scout who's mapping out her Christmas wish list. At the top of her list? "An air track, fidget toys and then, a Slushie maker," she said confidently.
Her parents are grateful her brother and she will wake up in their own rooms this Christmas, unlike last year. Miles spent 54 straight days at Riley Hospital — then, another six months undergoing aggressive chemotherapy.
"A lot of times, I don't think Miles even remembers the worst parts of his treatment. He remembers the fun things he did in the hospital," his mother said.
That's evident as he fondly looks at pictures of himself in the hospital — whether he's decked out in Star Wars gear for movie night or reliving a special visit from Colts players and the team's beloved mascot, Blue.
He's named his favorite stuffed animals after some of the nurses, doctors and staff at Riley that were by his side day in and day out.
He points to a stuffed bear named Mitch and a pup named Carol, "because she's from the hospital," he explained.
Both Miles and Samantha are thankfully in remission. Now more than ever, the Brown family cherishes doing the simple things they love together while never losing sight of those who have shared a similar journey.
"We're fortunate and very grateful that Samantha and Miles were able to overcome cancer," Brown said, "but we both think about all the parents and kids who we saw at Riley who are still struggling today. They are in our thoughts all the time."
The Browns now take on projects to help lift others at Riley up, like delivering goodies to the staff that helped their children through their toughest battles yet. They are proud to be "Riley Champions" and encouraging others to help the Riley Children's Foundation and their Christmas giving campaign to lift up the families walking in the shoes they once filled.
Click here to learn more about Riley's Christmas Giving Campaign or to make a contribution.