Cynthia Vale only sees her 1-year-old son Isaac on the weekends. During the week, she spends her time at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, looking after her 3-year-old son Samuel, who was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia in May.
“It’s hard,” said Vale, whose family lives in Conroe. “I have a 1-year-old I can’t see at the hospital because he might have something that could infect Samuel.”
Samuel has a disease, myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a cancer of the blood in which bone marrow stem cell disorders result in disorderly blood production and irreversible defects in blood-forming cells. His MDS led to AML. Although more than 11,900 new cases of AML occur in the United States each year, the average age of a person afflicted with AML is 65, and Vale said it is rare for a child to get it.
AML accounts for only 20 percent of childhood leukemias, and the type of AML Samuel was diagnosed with is extremely rare in children, his mother said.
“It’s like the opposite of winning the lottery,” family friend Natalie Clark said.
A benefit for Samuel, on his fourth birthday, will be from noon to 6 p.m. July 24 at Papa’s Ice House, located at 314 Pruitt Road in South Montgomery County. Clark said raffle tickets can be purchased for baskets donated from local companies, including The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, Chick-fil-A, Main Event, Gymboree Play & Music and Thai Cottage.
“There are a lot of families in the community whose children have cancer, and we really appreciate what the community has done for this family,” Clark said.
Samuel is on his 21st day of recovery from his first round of chemotherapy, which lasts 10 days and began in June. Vale said it was tough on her 3-year-old, who was bed ridden for the first two weeks of that time in pain and on heavy antibiotics.
“Since Saturday, he’s been up and about, singing and dancing and getting in trouble,” Vale said of Samuel, who loves cars, reading and soccer and attended First Christian Day School.
Once his immune system is high enough, doctors will put him through a second round of chemotherapy before they try a bone marrow transplant. Although Vale, her husband Robert and Isaac were not bone marrow matches, she said there are about 100 possible matches being screened right now so doctors can find the best match for Samuel.
“We feel very blessed because some of the children on this floor have only five or 10 possible donors,” she said. “But he has 100 matches.”
The financial strain is taking its toll on the family, who may have to sell their house in Conroe and move to Houston to take better care of their son. In addition to the medical bills the family has started receiving, the commute has raised other financial issues for the Vales.
The family pays $12 to park overnight in addition to gas for the commute. Since Samuel prefers home-cooked meals, they sometimes have to leave to get food and come back to spend more money for parking.
“You’re not counting on some of these expenses when your child gets sick, and you never think you’re going to be a parent whose child gets sick,” Vale said.
She said she has received help from many people in the community, including several she has never met before.
“That’s one thing that I’m so gracious for and feel so blessed by,” she said. “I’m seeing people come in and calling me, asking me about donating food, blood, bone marrow. They even offer to cook us food.”
A bank account to help with the Vale family’s expenses has been set up at Woodforest Nation Bank under The Vale Family Benefit Fund, account No. 1308328598. Donations can be made at any Woodforest branch location.
Cynthia Vale said people also can donate money, microwavable foods, bottled water, paper goods, cleaning products and magazine subscriptions to Houston’s Ronald McDonald House in the Texas Children’s Hospital at 1907 Holcombe Blvd.
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