The Graybill Family
No parent wants to hear those words “Your child has cancer.” I certainly never would have dreamed that our family would have been one to hear those words. Yet in March 2008, that’s where we found ourselves. Our son, Josiah, was 8 years old at that time. We didn’t know much about the Four Diamonds Fund when we started, but we certainly have come to appreciate the Four Diamonds staff and the connection to Penn State more than words can say. Josiah had his first surgery on April 1 to remove the tumor; it was a few days after that we found out it was rhabdomyosarcoma (the same type of cancer, coincidentally that Chris Millard had). After that, Josiah went through 24 weeks of chemo, with a treatment just one day a week.
Losing his hair and having to take medicines to combat the side effects were the worst parts for him; the worst part for me (his mother) was seeing other children that obviously were fighting for their lives when Josiah had it comparably easy that first time around. Our first THON in 2009 was an amazing, memorable experience. Josiah hated being singled out as “the kid with cancer,” but - at Penn State - being that kid meant being the star of the show, and he loved it!
Unfortunately for our family, Josiah wasn’t really done with his treatment, although at the time of our first THON we thought he was. In March more cancer was found in lymph nodes in his abdomen, and Josiah had his second surgery to remove cancerous cells. He also started more intensive chemotherapy. Just three months later, another scan showed that the cancer was continuing to spread, so Josiah had his third surgery in August. His doctors changed his treatment to even more aggressive chemo medicines so that every 3 weeks he either went to the clinic every day for 5 days or was in the hospital for 5 days for almost one year. Josiah also had 25 days of radiation treatments in September and October. At our second THON one could tell just by looking at hairless, eyebrowless Josiah that he was still fighting the battle. There is no doubt, however, the love and dedication of the Penn State students inspired Josiah that he could make it.
And he did! Right now Josiah is over 3 years post treatment and cancer-free! Our third, fourth, and fifth THONS were just plain fun! The whole THON weekend is unlike any experience found at any other college or anywhere for that matter. The students should feel so proud for the amount of money raised that has helped hundreds of kids just like Josiah. The new Children’s Hospital at Hershey, which some of the money raised by THON over the years helped build, is so incredible compared to the “old clinic” we visited. One time when Josiah was scheduled for treatment, the cancer wing at the old hospital was full, and he was sent home until the next day. This shows how much a larger area was really needed at Hershey. Although I’m thankful that he no longer needs treatments, I am sure the new families are enjoying all of the improvements in the new hospital, especially the oncology floor.
Having the support of the social workers, assistance with meals for me when Josiah was in the hospital, vouchers for free gas to help pay for our trips back and forth to Hershey, and financial aid for medicines and treatments not covered by our insurance are some of the many benefits we received from the Four Diamonds Fund to help make a very difficult situation more manageable. Words can never express our gratitude to everyone who has donated money, raised money, or been a part of the Four Diamonds Fund and THON at Penn State. No parents wants to hear the words “Your child has cancer,” but for those that this becomes a reality, the support through the Four Diamonds Fund and the Penn State students is a life line amidst the storm.