When the door opened again, Kate panicked, but then relaxed when she saw it was Dr. Laue. I smiled and looked expectantly at him as he sat down on the rolling stool again and faced me. “All right,” he began without a moment’s hesitation. “We’ve run her blood twice and it looks like what we’re dealing with here is leukemia.” The smile froze on my face as his words sank in. The room became absolutely still and for the briefest of moments, the world stopped spinning on its axis. – Erin Miller in her book “Fighting for Kate, the Inspirational Story of a Family’s Battle and Victory Over Cancer.”
All parents wish for their children to grow up healthy. But what would you do if your child was 3 years old and you discovered something was wrong? Something major and life changing? Something that could kill her?
That was the nightmare Huntsville’s Erin and Brandon Miller, along with their other two children, Jenna and Elijah, went through after Kate was diagnosed with cancer.
“Kate was 3 when one day she got very tired and had bruises starting to form on her legs. After a week or two of conditions not improving, we took her to her pediatrician and found out her white blood cell count was 539,000, which is more than a hundred times what is normal,” Erin Miller said. “We were sent straight to the emergency room at Huntsville Hospital, and from there we met somebody from St. Jude Hospital who told us it was probably leukemia. We were sent to St. Jude in Memphis by ambulance that night, where she was officially diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia T-cell.”
The next few years would prove Kate and her family were tough warriors. Therapy went on night after night and day after day. Some forms of therapy made Kate extremely sick, and there were many needles she had to withstand, but she was tough.
“Kate began two years and seven months of treatment. She had over 145 rounds of chemo, over 500 doses of steroids, over 500 doses of oral chemotherapy, 17 blood transfusions and 10 platelet transfusions; all necessary to save her life,” Miller said.
Kate finally achieved remission and she celebrated five years without cancer in May. During an interview with the family, Kate was the most bubbly and enthusiastic child. She played with her brother, Elijah, and sister, Jenna, with a constant smile.
Asked about her journey, Kate was shy at first, but then said, “I liked getting to visit the treasure box after I got the needle (for chemo) each week, and I loved my nurses. I didn’t like throwing up.”
What did this 8-year-old learn from her experience? “I learned from my cancer that life is really important,” she said.
Kate then held the book her mother had written and smiled.
“I wrote the book because I wanted to praise God and encourage others who were going through difficult trials to stay strong,” Miller said. “We also wanted to give back to St. Jude. They covered every bill of ours and reimbursed us for gas, flights if necessary, meal cards, housing costs and so much more. Part of the profits from the book go back to St. Jude.”
After Kate’s battle with cancer, life for the Miller family has regained some sense of normalcy.
“She’s doing so great now. We are back to what life was like before the years of her going through treatment. She plays soccer and softball and piano. She’s doing really well in school and is no longer taking any medication. We go back to St. Jude once a year for a checkup,” Miller said.
“We realize now that life is precious, and we do not take any moment for granted. We appreciate the little things we do with our kids, whether it was reading books and watching a sunset,” she said. “Life is for sure more meaningful. You never think you could love your children more, but this journey made that actually possible. We live each day to the max.”
From “Fighting for Kate”:
So Kate, when facing the troubles and trials that come in this life, remember this:
You can choose fear. Or you can choose faith.
You can choose worry. Or you can choose trust.
You can choose despair. Or you can choose hope.
You can choose self-pity. Or you can choose perspective.
You can choose tears. Or you can choose laughter.
You can choose to complain. Or you can choose thankfulness.
You can choose anger. Or you can choose love.
You can choose bitterness. Or you can choose joy.
My prayer is that you will always choose faith, trust, hope, perspective, laughter, thankfulness, love and joy. Always.
Alabama Bright Lights captures the stories, through words, pictures and video, of some of our state’s brightest lights who are working to make Alabama an even better place to live, work and play. Award-winning journalist Karim Shamsi-Basha tells their inspiring stories. Email him comments, as well as suggestions on people to profile, at [email protected]