Some of the most painful words any parent can hear are “Your child has cancer.” Those are the words we heard from the doctor about our 2 year old son Brady in May 2011. Brady’s diagnosis was stage 1V Neuroblastoma, an aggressive childhood cancer of the nervous system. On May 8, 2011 Brady’s journey with cancer began. That journey included 6 rounds of chemotherapy, 20 rounds of radiation, surgery, a stem cell transplant, and 6 rounds of immunotherapy. There was also a DFMO trial that took us to San Diego every 3 months for 2 years. Brady spent a total of 37 weeks inpatient on the cancer floor at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. He was treated by some of the very best doctors, nurses, and hospital staff that you could ever ask for. We were also so blessed to have wonderful family, friends, and neighbors help and support us during that difficult time.
When Brady was scheduled to have his stem cell transplant, we were told that his hospital stay would be anywhere from 4-8 weeks long. I decided that if he was going to be in a hospital room for such a long time, I wanted to make his room bright and cheerful. I chose a circus theme and decorated his room with lights, banners, a big top tent, a trapeze, and many other fun, colorful items. Brady loved his room! It seemed to really lift his spirits, and it was also therapeutic for me to focus on something positive, rather than my own fear and anxiety.
After Brady’s room was decorated, the other children on the cancer floor would pass by his room and stop to look inside. They really liked it! One day I heard a little girl say something that I will never forget, and was to be a life changing moment for me. She said “I wish my room looked like that”. I thought to myself “Why can’t her room look like that”? “In fact, why can’t all of these children have bright, cheerful hospital rooms”? And so it began. Little by little when I was out shopping I would pick up some fun wall decals or lights for the children. When I saw how happy it made them, I started adding other items too. Then I enlisted the help of family and friends, and pretty soon we were buying sheets, blankets, pillow pets, arts and crafts items, and much more. We became a real 501-C-3 charity, and I named it Rock’n Rooms. Although we started at Doernbecher, we are now at 3 other area hospitals as well. Parents or family of any child who will have a hospital stay of 3 weeks or longer can request a room basket for the child on our website, and it will be delivered to the child’s hospital room.
Brady is now 4 years out of treatment and is doing great! He will turn 7 years old in June, and loves school, playing soccer, and hanging out with his older brothers. I love to share his story with parents of children who are newly diagnosed and in treatment because it gives them hope. It is not an easy journey, but with the love and support of others, we can get through it. The families we have met who have a child with cancer have become our extended family. We lift each other up, we share information, we cry together, and we truly care. Each family has touched my life is some way, and I carry their story in my heart, along with Brady’s.
— Valerie Morton