Pre-Registration, ATC Ultra Challenge, Ultramarathon Atlanta, Ultra MarathoAustin Taylor's Story - The ATC Challenge - a, 50k Ultra Marathon Race, 50k Ultramarathon Race, Ultra Marathon Atlanta Ga, Ultra Marathon Atlanta, Ultramarathon Atlanta
On September 5, 2007, our lives were forever changed. We took Austin to the Scottish Rite ER to have a lump on his abdomen checked. Through scans, tumor biopsies, and bone marrow biopsies, Austin was diagnosed with stage IV, high risk Neuroblastoma, a very aggressive childhood cancer. It was in his abdomen, his hip, and his bone marrow. Dr. George told us everything to expect. He told us the bad things we needed to know, and that we weren't going to talk about them again. Austin could be cured and that was what we were going to work towards, together.
Austin was like any other 2 year old, running around playing with his friends at school and busy living his life. He didn't know anything about hospitals or teams of doctors and certainly not chemo or surgery, but how quickly he would learn after a diagnosis of Stage IV High Risk Neuroblastoma. God gave us an amazing medical team. Dr. George was immediately a voice of concern, knowledge, and honesty. We instantly had a feeling of trust in everything he did and said. The nurses that provided crucial care to Austin always did so with a smile on their face, never showing exhaustion, frustration, or anger.
It's hard to hear the words, your child has cancer, but it's harder to hold him down to have a tube put down his nose or an IV started for the first time and then realizing one day that these things don't even effect your 3 year old anymore is so sad. Seeing his hair fall out that you've run your fingers through since he was born brings a lump to your throat. Knowing he can't play with friends because his blood counts are so dangerously low that any infection would be life threatening is horrifying. Giving permission for doctors to give poison to your child because it's his best chance of survival is beyond words. Holding him while he throws up because of the chemo, bathing him hourly so the chemo doesn't burn his skin, making him walk laps while wearing a heavy surgical mask so his muscles won't weaken too much, and watching him being put under anesthesia over and over are frightening and not even close to being a fair life for a child. He had 8 rounds of chemotherapy, of which two rounds were very high dose chemo, requiring a stem cell rescue after each round, enabling his blood counts to recover a little faster. He also had a 7 hour surgery to remove his tumor, 13 rounds of radiation, 6 months of an oral medication, and countless scans and minor surgeries.
November 30, 2008 was the last day of Austin's treatment. For 3 1/2 years, Austin went from having scans and lab work every 3 months to finishing his last scans in January 2012. Please do not misunderstand and think that his oncologist stopped scans because Austin was completely out of any danger of this evil disease returning. For the rest of Austin's life, there would be some risk of this cancer returning or some other form of cancer developing due to his treatment, as the scans produce more radiation than his body should be exposed to. His doctors continued to monitor him every 6 months with lab work and exams. They also monitored him for a long list of possible long term side effects due to his treatment. We chose not to focus on the risk of relapse and possible side effects. We focused on the fact that in September 2007 we weren't sure if Austin would still be with us 5 years later and there he was starting 2nd grade and looking forward to his 8th birthday. Austin’s love of swimming, fishing, hunting, snakes, nature, the solar system, UGA, and playing in sports, particularly football and baseball kept him (and us) busy. Tears would well up in my eyes when I would see him doing the "little things" like receiving an award at school, learning to swim, or playing with his little brother.
In December of 2012, just after turning 8 years old, Austin began his fight again with the recurrence of this dreaded disease. This time it presented itself in his sinus cavity. Again, we were supported by Austin’s physicians, clinical staff, family, friends, and CURE. Austin started in treatments planned out by his doctors, working closely with us. As we looked at ways to overcome this dreaded disease, we also looked to maintain a life of “normalcy” for Austin and our family. Austin continued to go to school, with an amazing support system of teachers and staff. He played competitively in sports that he loved. There were plenty of times that Austin was tired, but would not show it or give in. He fought hard and loved to play.
Over the next year and a half, Austin never gave in. He laughed and played jokes on his doctors and nurses during treatments and hospital stays. He never missed school or games unless he was in the hospital, often going straight to school from a treatment or checkup or changing clothes in the clinic to go straight to a baseball game. He took his job as a big brother seriously and tortured his little brother ALL THE TIME. He fought hard, even playing baseball just a couple of weeks before his battle against this disease ended. He was a tough kid with a sweet, mischievous smile and giggle to the very end. Austin’s battle ended on July 1, 2014, but we talk about him every day and often wonder what he’s doing. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing, Caleb talks about his big brother like he’s still right here with us.
Not knowing what the future held was never going to be easy. Austin blessed so many people, a true gift from God. He brought more joy in his 9 1/2 years than we could ever imagine possible. Our family, friends, and perfect strangers are still here for support and to pray for us. Wonderful organizations like CURE provided meals, money, gift cards, smiles, hugs, a break, or simply an ear to listen. They are supportive to families going through these challenging times. Sometimes it's the little things that mean the most when you're in the hospital for weeks or months at a time. I've learned it's important to give that extra hug and kiss every day. God blessed our family with Austin. Through the support of organizations, such as CURE; we want to find a way to eradicate childhood cancers. Austin fought his battle head-on and gave it everything he had. Now it’s our turn to fight! Please join us in the ATC (Austin Taylor Challenge) 2015 to raise money for CURE.