On Sunday, as the 12th Annual Cobra Polo Classic kicks off and guests are arriving, 15-year-old Zoe will be there, looking skyward. She’ll be waiting to see a skydiver come down, carrying a banner with her name on it. For this brave young woman, the event represents much more than an afternoon of fun and frivolity. It is an opportunity to take a break from a life that has been turned upside down, and to represent the place that she has called home during the hardest four months of her life.
Earlier this spring, Zoe could never have imagined that she would be living in Spokane, undergoing aggressive cancer treatment. She was a normal, active high school student in Moses Lake– busy with school and swim team, excitedly thinking about getting a driver’s license. When she started feeling tired, she assumed that she was just pushing herself too hard. When she started getting excessive nose bleeds, her doctors told her it was severe allergies.
But then, on May 3rd, she went into the urgent care center. Doctors drew blood, and after analyzing her white blood counts, told Zoe and her Grandma Debbie the unimaginable: Zoe likely had leukemia. They were sent to go home, pack bags, and leave immediately for Spokane.
When Zoe and Debbie arrived in Spokane, their worst fears were confirmed. Not only did Zoe have leukemia, she had both types, Acute Lympocytic Leukemia and Acute Myeloid Leukemia. As Debbie explains, “Most people don’t have that. They have one or the other…. There’s a handful in the United States that have both.”
Zoe spent the next two weeks in the hospital, while her grandma and grandpa tried to figure out how to make things work. When a social worker at the hospital told Debbie about the Ronald McDonald House, a burden was lifted off of her shoulders. They decided that Zoe’s grandpa would stay home in Moses Lake to take care of Zoe’s 11-year-old brother Zane, while Debbie would relocate to Spokane for the duration of Zoe’s treatment.
The last four months have presented continuous challenges for Zoe. After being released from the hospital, she blacked out walking the halls at the Ronald McDonald House and had to be rushed to the hospital. During her stay she got mucositis which caused sores all down the back of her throat, and she had to be on a pain pump for three weeks. At one point doctors worried her throat would close and she was rushed to the Intensive Care Unit. Earlier this summer half of her spleen died.
Throughout the ups and downs, the Ronald McDonald House has been a refuge. As Zoe says “Everybody is so nice…It’s a safe place for me. The House provides more privacy than the hospital.” Debbie adds that simply having a kitchen has provided immense comfort, and she’s especially appreciated the volunteer groups that come in to prepare meals. “It’s really nice when the volunteers come in…For people to take their time and their money and cook for us is unbelievable.” Their family from Moses Lake also comes up to visit on the weekends, and they appreciate having a place that they can all gather. They’ve come to know many of the other families staying here, including four different families with children battling cancer. “We’ve met some really neat people. We seem to bond with people who are going through what Zoe’s going through,” says Debbie.
Zoe and Debbie will likely be in Spokane through the end of the year, and will celebrate the holiday season in Spokane. But for now, they’re taking it one day at a time. As Debbie explains, “I take day by day, because if you look too far ahead it can get overwhelming. The time will go, and our goal is just to get Zoe well….We’ll survive it.”
On Sunday, that one day will be especially important. Zoe loves horses and is excited to see her first polo match. She’s also excited to stand with other Ronald McDonald families who are have called this special place home.
Thank you to all who support this incredible event. Your generosity provides more than a wonderful afternoon – it offers a home away from home for hundreds of families like Zoe’s. And that is a gift that is truly priceless.