The Power of People

Hannah Sullivan Shares Her Gratitude for Community Support

Hannah Sullivan, Contributing Writer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Three months and six days ago today, on the night of Wednesday, March 1st, my younger brother Parker was diagnosed with cancer. In the time since then, my family and I have learned how to deal with the ups and downs of our new reality, of a life split between our house and Boston Children’s Hospital. But on that day, on that night when I walked into my house to find my dad and my sister in tears on the couch, I never felt more alone.

I cannot begin to express to you what it felt like to receive news like that. I cannot put into words the whirlwind of fear and emotion that overtook me in that moment. I cannot articulate in a way that you would understand how it felt as my keys slipped from my hand and I collapsed onto the hardwood floor next to them.

If I tried to explain it, it felt, in the simplest of ways, as if everything I knew was crashing down around me, and I was pinned there, helpless, and struggling to breathe. My chest tightened and my lungs fought against me. My ears filled with ringing and all I could hear was the pounding of my heart inside my chest. I sat there, gasping for air, and drowning in panic.

But I couldn’t allow myself to break down. I was restrained by my own inability to let sadness overcome me. Instead of falling apart, every ounce of panic, and fear, and pain that I felt in that moment manifested as a crushing tightness in my chest. And that crushing feeling stayed with me for days. And I felt it again when I wrote this. But that night was by far the worst because in that moment I was incapable of processing what was happening. I was consumed by the news, and I had never felt more completely and utterly helpless.

The reality was that my four-year-old brother, who had been brought into the pediatrician only eight hours earlier for slightly uncharacteristic tiredness, was now a residential patient on floor six of Boston Children’s Hospital in the childhood cancer wing.

On that single day, my brother Parker had gone to the doctor, been transferred to Children’s, and undergone three blood transfusions. He was set to receive two more transfusions that same night before starting chemotherapy immediately the next morning. He had gone through a series of blood tests, and in the following days received a bone marrow biopsy, which confirmed the diagnosis that the doctors had expected — that he had B Cell Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, commonly referred to as ALL.

This specific diagnosis, the most common cancer among young kids and what the doctors told us was the “best diagnosis” my brother could have hoped to receive under the circumstances, came as a relative relief amongst the chaos of those first few days. But those first days and weeks were not easy.

From his diagnosis on March 1st until March 13th, my brother was not allowed to leave the hospital, which meant that for two weeks both of my parents were there with him almost full-time while my sister and I bounced back and forth from school to sports to the hospital and our house. Since then, he has been able to come back home for the most part, and he only goes to the Jimmy Fund Clinic for treatments during the day and occasionally stays overnight at Children’s. 

But even those days, when I would leave my house at 7:15 in the morning for school and not get home from Boston until 10:30 at night, I did not feel as helplessly alone as I did that first night. That is because, on the second day, I told my closest friends what had happened, and slowly as my family let others close to us in the community know what was going on, I was never left alone again.

That weekend, my dad posted a simple message on Facebook in which he shared Parker’s diagnosis, as well as the link to a GoFundMe page, with his couple of hundred friends. Within minutes of him putting this message out there, I began receiving a stream of texts of thoughts and support from friends, family, teammates, and neighbors that continued for almost a week.

The link my dad put on Facebook to my brother’s GoFundMe page was shared 953 times. 364 people have donated money on this page alone, each contributing individually in small amounts to what combined now totals an incomprehensible sum. The most touching donations, small amounts of 5 or 10 dollars from students in our school whom I barely know, or money sent by families we were friends with ten years ago in another state, were incredibly moving. Just knowing that the sheer number of people thinking of my brother and my family was so large made it impossible for me to feel alone.

When my family needed it most, everyone around us stepped up in ways big and small to make sure we were completely and totally supported. On top of the GoFundMe, which was only the first of many community efforts I have seen take shape around my family recently, presents of toys, clothes, blankets, and candy — as well as cards and drawings with well wishes — have poured through my front door as people have taken it upon themselves to get Parker something to make him smile.

A friend of my mom’s set up a meal train that has provided my family with set dinners multiple times a week for the past three months on nights when my parents were gone too late at the hospital to make anything themselves.

My brother’s preschool teachers, in order to show their support, bought red sneakers in honor of my brother’s signature red Converse, which they now wear to school every day. The red Converse idea was adopted by Magical Moon, a local farm that works to empower kids with cancer, which paired up with Shoe Market Kids to sell red Converse as a benefit for Parker, and even hosted a Red Sneaker Day just for him at the farm. Since then, I’ve had friends text me that they just ordered their own pair of red Converse, and have seen pictures of friends and family as far reaching as Canada and California wearing pairs of their own.

The Scituate Beach Association in Sandhills hosted an open mic in Parker’s name a couple weekends ago, during which they let Parker get up on stage and sing at least three times between the other performers, even though twice he sang the same song.

The Jimmy Fund Clinic has sent Parker to watch two Red Sox games and gave him the opportunity to get up to bat and run the bases at Fenway Stadium at their annual event last weekend.

The Scituate girls and boys high school lacrosse teams, as well as the youth programs, have orange stickers, patches, or headbands with Parker’s initials on them to show their support; and the t-shirts for the leukemia awareness lacrosse game held a few weeks ago for Parker sold out so fast that another order had to be placed.

Even at my own house, it has reached a point where, more times than not, I get home from school to find my living room filled with family, friends, teachers, parents, and preschoolers building Legos and playing board games alongside my smiling brother.

These countless events, efforts, and little visits for my brother do not just bring a smile to his face; they have each, in small ways, helped to make him genuinely happy by providing him moments of normality amidst the rotation of hospital visits and medications that represent his life right now. In the three months and six days since his diagnosis, my family has had the open hearts and helping hands of not just Scituate, but a community of people far and wide, supporting us every step of the way, pushing us to persevere and to stay strong.

Without our community’s constant support, I couldn’t tell you how my family would be doing right now. The knowledge that there is an army of people ready to help us at any slight issue or bump in the road lifts that crushing feeling from my chest because I know that regardless of what happens, neither we nor Parker, will be left to deal with it alone.

 

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Navigate Right
Navigate Left
  • The Power of People

    Top Stories

    Miss Judy Made Fridays Even Sweeter at SHS

  • The Power of People

    News

    One School, One Gown

  • The Power of People

    Features

    Teachers Who Started With Us: In Our Hearts 4ever

  • The Power of People

    Features

    Lesniak and Matisoff Bid Farewell to Senior Class

  • The Power of People

    News

    Superintendent Search Completed: A Follow-Up With Education Leaders

  • The Power of People

    Features

    Success After Scituate: Henry Lockwood’s Story

  • The Power of People

    Features

    Gay-Straight Alliance Sponsors SHS Showcase

  • The Power of People

    Entertainment

    Ron Griffin selected as the “fit” for Scituate Public Schools

  • The Power of People

    Sports & Wellness

    Teacher Appreciation Week Testimonial: The Power of Public Education

  • The Power of People

    News

    SHS Model UN Heads West

The Power of People