From the moment of her diagnosis, 11-year-old Naomi Oakes and her family have made an effort to count their blessings as Naomi battles leukemia. Because of the aggressiveness of her specific cancer, Naomi has been in the hospital almost constantly since late June undergoing treatments to destroy the cancer.
Naomi’s mother, Shannon, says, “The very first night that Naomi and I stayed at the hospital … we both cried in the dark as we reflected on the news we had gotten that day. As we were having our ‘pity party,’ we started talking about what we were thankful for. We talked about how we caught the leukemia early enough that we were going to treat it successfully. We talked about how with her being the youngest, and my being a stay-at-home mom, I could be at the hospital with her. We talked about all the family and friends that surrounded her with love and the outpouring we saw from the first day. That precedence of talking about what we are grateful for has stayed with us throughout this experience.”
Not only are they aware of their blessings, but this trial has been the catapult for blessing others during their fight over what Naomi refers to as her “bad blood.”
The TeamNaomi Facebook page alone has over 5,000 members, all learning about this disease in a very personal way. Members can see the struggles as well as the celebrations as Naomi fights. It is through this social media outlet that leukemia awareness has been brought to the attention of so many.
A video featuring Naomi singing Taylor Swift’s song, “Bad Blood,” caught the attention of the pop star. When Swift heard that Naomi would not be able to attend her summer concert, she generously donated $50,000 to Naomi’s GoFundMe website set up to help cover medical expenses.
The blessings don’t stop there. A family friend heard about the emotional event of shaving Naomi’s hair and jumped in with an idea to create Happy Hair Bands for people suffering from hair loss due to chemotherapy or alopecia. (For more information, visit www.happyhairbands.com.)
There have been blood drives, bone marrow registrations and Swift’s “Bad Blood” was performed in sign language at a school talent show. Goody bags have been put together for cancer patients in local children’s hospitals and fundraisers all over the Valley, such as a “Nuke the Leuk” carnival night, have been held not only to raise money but to make people aware of the devastation of this kind of cancer.
“Because of the awareness we now have of childhood cancer, we are dedicated to try to share that awareness with others. September is Childhood Cancer Awareness…gold is the color of the ribbon … Naomi and I want to spread the message so it is as widely recognized as the pink in October. The more attention it receives, the more funding it will receive,” adds Shannon.
Searching for blessings amidst this trial has generated an additional blessing for Naomi and her family. After five months of living in the hospital, Naomi is planning to go home very soon. To follow her progress, search TeamNaomi on Facebook or Twitter.