The post has gone viral, with 4, shares as of the writing of this article, making Howell an inspiration to a lot of fans.
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After one fan wrote to her about her about radiation treatment and about her cancer relapse when she thought she was in remission, Howell wrote back with some advice from her own journey. Neuroblastoma develops from nerve cells in the fetus, and often affects the small glands above the kidneys called adrenal glands, but can be found in other locations in the chest, neck or spine. And she also said she felt some shame around the topic of her illness, until it was all in the open. Yes, I survived it.
On September 9th, , Howell was rushed to the hospital with a high fever.
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There, doctors ran x-ray tests, and detected a mass in her stomach. More than 20 doctors were await her arrival, according to Brooks. Doctors at the hospital ran a lot of tests and determined that Howell was at risk of a stroke. For Brooks, the hospital was an overwhelming experience. According to the Times News, she threw her arms up and gave a confused gaze. What can I do? On September 12th, doctors informed the close family that Howell had neuroblastoma, and because of problems with her blood pressure, would only live one day.
The cancer had attacked to her liver and kidneys, and radiation was the only treatment option. And all she could do was hope for the best.
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Howell did three day chemotherapy sessions for 48 weeks in Birmingham, continuing treatment until she was five years old. When the cancer returned two years later, we told only our parents and siblings. Aside from them, we were alone with her illness and its lethality.
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Marla and I launched our stealth treatment strategy together: Everything would be tried; little would be shared. We saw no need to alarm friends, worry relatives, or derail the girls. Subterfuge was essential for survival—not just the literal, existential kind, but survival of the spirit.
Our kids would not be robbed of stability; protecting their sense of the ordinary was everything. The ground would stay steady, and we would extend the runway for as long as possible. Some might not have made the same decision, believing that the girls had a right to know they should savor diminishing moments. Marla refused to let family time together feel too precious, too heightened, too sad. How does one fight cancer on the sly? When Marla needed Neulasta shots for her bone strength, she slipped the doctor into our house quietly in the evenings, while the kids were upstairs doing their homework.
Despite the fatigue and nausea of chemo, she continued to run long distances, for her own mental fitness, and more important, so her kids would see her strong. I knew these miles were a miracle.
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Bimonthly Amtrak trips to Boston for treatment were disguised to our daughters as volunteer efforts to participate in cancer trials, but the truth was that she was the trial. When those tumors started to protrude, she wore scarves in warm weather. We threw everything at her disease: lectures, research, involvement in cancer organizations, yoga, meditation, teas, soups. She even went to a storefront healer who lit incense, read her palm, and led her in prayer. It was a nickname that I promoted with all her doctors and nurses because it was not only hopeful, but true.
Marla was a statistical freak, an aberration, an outlier.
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One thousand days landed firmly in our rearview mirror. Finding quiet time for the two of us in a house with three active young girls was challenging.
We caught up with each other during walks, in the shower, or on a rare date night out. The treatments organized our lives and demanded our optimism. Her smile, her lack of Why me? Our affection became a kind of anesthetic.
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Every six weeks, when she got scanned, Marla and I braced ourselves for results. This past fall, we had to confront that we were running out of options. She had effectively been undergoing chemo for seven straight years. She had chosen to give our family a routine without a morbid spotlight. She did not want endless questions, pity, or gossip. I would have worried every single day.
Marla insisted on giving our daughters their youth, convinced that normalcy would allow them to discover their own strengths.