Sep 10, 201208:10 AMDaily News
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Coping with Cancer: Meet the Beltz family
Editor’s note: This is the first in a five-part series examining the Beltz family of Carlisle, who is celebrating the fourth year of remission for their young son Xander. This series is in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
It’s a Wednesday evening in August and Xander Beltz is hyper.
The 5-year-old tosses a ball with a visitor in his South Middleton Township home, plays with airplanes and cars and draws maps on computer paper. He is hesitant to answer questions but unafraid to play catch with the stranger.
He’s just a normal 5-year-old kid.
It’d be hard to imagine Xander had at one point been diagnosed with a cancer that had a better chance of non-survival than survival, but it will be four years this November that Dave and Dava Beltz’ youngest child was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia at just 19 months old.
The diagnosis changed everything forever for the Beltzes, and though they are now a typical family trying to make it in the world, they live with a newfound appreciation for life and desire to pay it forward.
“Four years ago it was ‘Oh today’s a bad day,’” Dava said. “Now, no, it’s ‘Today isn’t as good as other days.’ Some days are better than others, but every day is a good day. You wake up breathing, it’s a good day. Being where I’ve been, I try to pay forward because I’ll never be able to pay it back.”
Dava worked at Yellow Roadway Trucking when Xander was diagnosed, but she was laid off due to outsourcing in the summer of 2009. She took time off to be with Xander as he recovered, and she opened a Scentsy business. She’s now working at Church of God Nursing Home and studying to complete her degree in nursing.
Dave works for Pfizer, and though his position is temporary, hopes to be brought on permanently soon.
Jacaylah Beltz is a seventh grader at Yellow Breeches Middle School. When her brother was diagnosed, Jacaylah was forced to live with her grandparents so she couldn’t bring home germs from school and make her brother sick while he underwent treatment.
While Xander runs around, Jacaylah plays video games on her tablet but is more than willing to talk about that winter and how grateful she is to have her brother still around.
“I think it’s a miracle that God sent us,” Jacaylah said. “I think it’s a miracle with all that he’s gone through, and I know we fight a lot, and a lot, and a lot, and a lot, but deep down inside I have that little thing telling me I really shouldn’t be picking on him because what he went through is the biggest bully.”
As the elder sibling displays maturity higher than many seventh-graders, her parents stress that other parents in a situation such as what they faced should not forget their healthy children.
“My best advice to a new family facing pediatric cancer would be don’t neglect your “well” children,” Dava said. “Everybody focuses on ‘how can we help you, what can we do for your situation, what can we do for your child?,’ but they don’t remember you have well children too. To be quite honest, we forgot.”
Dava’s parents were life savers as they took Jacaylah to the hospital each Friday and picked her up for the school week each Sunday night. It allowed Jacaylah to visit her brother but also gave her parents a chance to spend time with her.
The youngest member of the Beltz family is Xander, who is as healthy as most boys his age. He doesn’t remember much of the horror he underwent—due to the type of his leukemia, he underwent six months of intense chemo therapy compared to the usual 18-24 month outpatient treatment most leukemia patients have—but he remember parts of it, such as specific doctors.
While the Beltz family lives a normal life, they still have reminders about what they’ve overcome—and not all are negative.
When Xander went to Penn State Hershey Medical Center, the family learned of a group and an organization aimed at helping people in their situation. They signed up with very little knowledge of the group, and they ended up joining a family that changed their lives—a family the Beltz’ will defend no matter what the world thinks.
Kurt Bopp is assistant editor/web for Central Penn Parent. Check back tomorrow to find out why Dava credits a school that has been rocked to its foundation by scandal for saving her son.