Sep 14, 201207:00 AMDaily News
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Coping with Cancer: Just a normal family
Editor’s note: This is the final in a five-part series examining the Beltz family of Carlisle, who is celebrating the fourth year of remission for their young son Xander. To learn more about the Beltzes, check out Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday’s articles.
Xander started full-day kindergarten this year at W.G. Rice Elementary.
The milestone that many mothers dread was complicated by Xander’s health concerns. “He’s my baby, so it’s hard for me as a mom to watch your baby go to kindergarten,” Dava said. “I’m a little nervous about the mainstreaming in a closed environment with so many germs. But it is what it is. I can’t homeschool him, I can’t shelter him forever.”
Jacaylah is excited for her brother’s next adventure. She’s a typical big sister—protective yet easily annoyed. “Sometimes I do get a little jealous when he gets more attention than me,” Jacaylah said, “but since he did go through that, he needs that recognition and support. Deep down inside I do love him, but sometimes he’s irritating.”
For anyone placed in the unfortunate position she was in back in third grade, with a sibling in an intense battle with cancer, Jacaylah advises to not focus just on the sick sibling. “I had a little bit of trouble in school because I was worried about Xander and how he was doing, so I didn’t focus on my schoolwork,” Jacaylah said. “I would just suggest that even though your sibling is sick, try and think of happy thoughts so you can get your schoolwork done. School is important.”
Xander now gets tested only three times a year. Once he’s five years off treatment he’ll be considered cured and then just go for routine annual check ups.
But the good news hasn’t been without some red flags.
Last year, the doctors found “blasts” in Xander’s bloodwork. Blasts—immature white blood cells—should be found in the bone marrow and are a sign of leukemia if found in the blood.
Xander immediately underwent a bone marrow biopsy and it was sent out and analyzed to make sure it was normal. “Anybody can have these show up in blood, it’s just with his history of leukemia they wanted to do further testing and make sure it wasn’t a possible relapse,” Dava said, “and it wasn’t, thank God. That was a whole week on pins and needles.”
Dava relents that she may “freak out” whenever something seems off with Xander, but she doesn’t want to take too many chances, and she definitely doesn’t want that one time when she didn’t do enough to be the time that something is wrong.
And with kids, something is often off. “Most kids get a sniffle, a cough—parents don’t freak out,” Dave said. “A couple days later the parents get medicine at the pharmacy. We got one child that if she gets a sniffle, we say ‘Okay, take something.’ The other child, it’s like ‘Oh my God, what’s going on?’”
Another sign of leukemia is bruising, which is common in energetic little boys like Xander. Young kids like Xander can be rough, and unfortunately he will always be under the microscope just in case.
There are other reminders, of course. While the Beltz family tries to live their lives not thinking about the nightmare they’ve overcome, something often brings them back and reminds them.
While on a recent vacation, the family saw a friend post to Facebook “Suddenly material possessions no longer matter.”
“Deep down in our gut we knew what, we didn’t know who,” Dave said. “Couple hours later we found out who. Unfortunately, it was far too familiar.”
The friend’s son was the same age as Xander at the time of his diagnosis. “You hear news like that and automatically I want to help,” Dava said. “I thought ‘You know what, I’ve been here before, I know what he needs.’ This is the perfect opportunity to do a fundraiser.”
She set it up so 100 percent of the profits she gains from selling Scentsy in August went to the family facing this crisis. People want to help and they will if given the opportunity, Dava said. She sells the most whenever she does a fundraiser.
Looking at the family today, there are no signs of the horror Xander faced or the struggle Dave and Dava underwent or the confusion and chaos of Jacaylah’s third-grade year. No symbols of what this family has overcome, the great battle the Beltzes have won.
As they wave from the doorstep of their town home, they blend in with their surroundings and neighborhood full of townhouses.
Just a normal family.
Kurt Bopp is assistant editor/web at Central Penn Parent. He’s lost two family members to cancer but is inspired by his maternal grandmother, who has undergone chemo three times yet come out victorious.