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April Fools, Prom and Cancer

By Val Marshall

addisonandsarah.jpgVal Marshall's cancer journey began in May 2009 when her son Addison was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia. A visit to the family doctor for what they thought was a simple high school football injury turned out to be so much more.

Inspired by her son's strength and hope, Val strives to be a voice to help connect other parents on this journey. Her series shares insight into her life as a mom of a typical teenager who just happens to be fighting leukemia.


Addison Marshall Crush Cancer

Our youngest son decided to play a belated April Fools' Day joke by telling me that he was scared because he had never witnessed petechiae on his chest before (pin dot pools of blood under the skin that become evidence of crashing platelets). As I dropped my fork, he walked over to me and said with a smile, "Or it is just spaghetti sauce." Dark humor at its best.

By Val Marshall

Val Marshall's cancer journey began in May of 2009 when her son Addison was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia. A visit to the family doctor for what they thought was a simple high school football injury turned out to be so much more.


Inspired by her son's strength and hope, Val strives to be a voice to help connect other parents on this journey.

Addison Marshall Crush Cancer



valmarshalll.jpgLast week I had the privilege of visiting our country's capitol in the role of advocate for pediatric cancer awareness.

As the lone representative from Texas, I had the pleasure of meeting with the health care aides for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Sen. John Cornyn. I also met personally with Rep. Michael McCaul and Rep. Ron Paul.

A day of training from CureSearch and Children's Oncology Group (COG) prepared us for our day on Capitol Hill. Riding the bus felt like the first day of junior high as everyone rushed to meet with the "popular kids," and the campus police and X-ray machines kept us in line.

I went with the mission of increasing awareness of our medical orphans, the "only" 13,500 children who are diagnosed each year.

Perception Is Reality

marshall_family_smaller.jpgVal Marshall's cancer journey began in May of 2009 when her son Addison was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia. A visit to the family doctor for what they thought was a simple high school football injury turned out to be so much more.

Inspired by her son's strength and hope, Val strives to be a voice to help connect other parents on this journey. Her series will share insight into her life as a mom of a typical teenager who just happens to be fighting leukemia.


Addison Marshall Crush Cancer


By: Val Marshall

Addison and I traveled east to the "Anderson Day Spa" for a three-day rest and relaxation trip with a chemo spritzer on the side. I was determined to put on a happy face that even Addie couldn't see through.

The night before, I woke up in a panic thinking of the 33 miners in Chile as they are holding on for dear life. I can't imagine being buried alive without light, water, food or space to move. My heart breaks for them and their families, and the hours must feel like decades to freedom. I told Addie that perception is truly reality as I bet each of those miners would love a minute to be in a hospital room with a large window, room service, icy air conditioning and turn-down service.

Funny, how I would have described a hospital stay before my perception change. I would have said, "We are going to jail and staying in a tiny, freezing room with hospital food." I was prepared for the teenage eye roll but Addie said, "I am lucky just to be in the hospital for only three days with food, water and a bed to sleep in. Oh, yeah, and a big TV in the teen room." 

Our conversation set a great tone that continued until breakout on Wednesday night at 10:00 p.m. Addie told the nurses that if he wasn't released by Wednesday night he would be up with the residents in the early morning to "lean on someone," as he had to be at school by 8:00 a.m. Thursday morning. I guess he had an appointment he couldn't miss! All the nurses on the ninth floor moved heaven and earth to abide by his wishes, but still stressed that they are protecting his kidneys first and his schedule second. Dr. (Robert) Wells adjusted the orders slightly, as long as Addie assisted the fluid flush. Addie said, "Dr. Wells is the man."

Addie watched my CNN interview and exclaimed, "Cool, can you go get my school supplies at Walmart now?" Kids, the original buzz kill! That is one of the things I love about Addie. He is a straight shooter and doesn't care for much melodrama.

Marshall_FootballField.jpgWe attended the high school football game on Friday night and we were unprepared for the pain of watching Addison on the sidelines. I remember a time when I really enjoyed school football games but I have to be honest, now it just showcases rough times in our life. Now, when I see Addie meandering along the sidelines without a position, it pains my momma bear heart.

Funny, that thing called perception. When Addie arrived home after the game, he was down because of the loss and the painful injury of one of his teammates. Addie so understands how quickly your life can change in an instant. Here all three of us looked at Addie as a victim not able to play football, yet he was mourning the sadness of his friend's injury like he was every bit a part of Falcon football. Addie's perception was the warmth of friends on an almost cool fall Friday night. It was a treasure to be included whether he played on the gridiron or was on water boy duty!

Another sign of hope was found in getting the opportunity to meet with all of Addie's teachers last week. Once again, this team of compassionate professionals offered words of encouragement, books and reassurance that they will help Addie throughout his junior year. I I walked into one classroom pleased to see my older son Aussie's physics teacher; Addie was fortunate to land in her class this year. She has been so supportive to our family through the crisis du jour. After a full week teaching, she was at the game with a smile on her face and kindness in her eyes hawking pompoms and decals for the school. The commitment of these teachers never ebbs and we are so grateful for their unrelenting support for all of our kids.

I am trusting that God is supplying Addie with the strength of Atlas to weather this long monsoon called cancer. "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." -- Marcel Proust

marshall_family1.JPGWhen the Marshall family settled in New Orleans in 1999, they were there to stay. They didn't bargain on Hurricane Katrina uprooting their family only six years later.

Nor did they realize the hurricane would be a minor event compared to a personal storm that would strike the family just as they re-planted their roots in Texas.

Addison Marshall was 12 years old when he moved with his parents and older brother to Fulshear, Texas, outside of Houston, after the hurricane. He immediately got involved with the activities any youthful boy would -- football, Boy Scouts and hanging out with his buddies.

A mother knows when something is wrong


During spring football training in 2009, the tough-skinned 15-year-old started complaining about a pain in his side.

"Addison never complains so we immediately knew something wrong," recalls his mother, Valerie. "We thought maybe he had cracked a rib during football practice."

Visiting the doctor, the Marshalls learned that Addison had three cracked ribs caused by an enlarged spleen. A blood test showed that his white blood count was abnormally high as well. Addison's grandfather battled leukemia as an adult, so the Marshalls feared what the high blood counts meant.

Transferring to MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital, their fears were realized as Addison was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, the most common childhood cancer.

"After going through Hurricane Katrina together and then facing a cancer diagnosis, we've really learned what strength we have as a family," Val says.

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