Joey was four when his mother, Angie, noticed her son started looking tired during soccer games.
She started asking other parents if they thought Joey looked different and taking photos to compare his color. She called a doctor who ordered blood work but she also thought allergies might be behind the changes.
“We walked into the allergy appointment and the nurse gasped,” said Angie. “She said, ‘What’s wrong with Joey?’ As soon as she said that and I saw the look on her face, I knew something was really wrong.”
Joey was diagnosed with leukemia and spent the next several months fighting the blood cancer and other complications from the treatment.
“I wouldn’t eat, I wasn’t very hungry, I was always tired,” says nine year-old Mikala Hodgens. “My stomach hurt, my arms started aching and I had bruises all over my body.”
About a year and a half ago, Mikala parents started to notice changes in their daughter.
After taking her in for a routine doctor’s appointment, Mikala’s mother, Micki, received news that their daughter had leukemia.
“That’s hitting your brain as a parent, and you’re trying to comprehend this and you’re staring at your eight year-old at that time and you’re thinking this is not even reality,” said Micki.
Doug, Mikala’s father, was at work when his wife called to tell him to come to the hospital.
“That’s the one call that you get to hear your wife being as out of control and having a hard time talking and telling you what’s going on,” said Doug. “As a dad and a husband and a father, that’s one of the hardest things. That’s one call you don’t want to hear.”
Both Joey and Mikala went through weeks of intensive chemotherapy, injected in different parts of their body. They lost some if not all of their hair, but both are in remission.
Micki said the family drew strength from their faith and just focused on taking one day at a time.
“I know a lot of times I would try to take a step back and take a look at the big picture and it was way too overwhelming,” said Micki. “Two and a half, three years seems so over whelming, so far away and there are so many lists of medications that are thrown at you….I just got to where I had to say, what’s in store for tomorrow.”
Joey’s mother agreed that it’s a long journey but says the thousands hours of research have improved her son’s chance of beating cancer.
“It’s long, it’s not fun, but there’s a really good chance he’s going to be cured from this when it’s all over,” said Angie.
Joey and Mikala have been chosen as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Boy and Girl of the year. They are helping raise money for the organization that funds research for blood cancers and provides support for families.
“I think it’s wonderful for families to get to come together and parents can talk and share experiences or trials you may be facing, realize you are not in this alone,” says Micki. “Then there’s opportunity for the kids to just be kids.”
You can help KWCH donate $1,000 to one of the local Kansans raising money for LLS by just “liking” their photo on KWCH’s Facebook page or “sharing” their photo on your own Facebook page.
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