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Finding Two-Syllable Words (Aubrey’s Story)

Aubrey was born October 10, 2011 a healthy, beautiful little girl. She was a feisty gal but always with a sunny disposition. She did normal baby things and led a normal girl life until two weeks prior to her second birthday when she started having high fevers that she just couldn’t shake.

After several trips to the doctor and urgent care, one day at daycare she fell and refused to put any weight on her left leg. Fearing that she broke a bone, we took her to the hospital determined to find out what was plaguing our little girl.

X-rays found no tears or breaks in her leg, and Tylenol wasn’t doing the trick anymore. We decided we weren’t leaving until we had an answer and a solution. The urgent care doctor agreed to admit Aubrey and overnight the doctor team ran blood tests and the next morning, our pediatrician had an answer and a solution we weren’t prepared for:

“We think your daughter has cancer. You will need to go to Iowa City immediately, they’re waiting for you.”

Till that day, many two-syllable words had changed our life in so many wonderful ways:  Marriage  Happy  Pregnant  Baby  Aubrey

Another two-syllable word altered the course of our lives permanently: Cancer.

Over the course of the next two and a half years, we faced a continuous stressful situation called Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). Leukemia permeated into every aspect of every minute in our lives. It was always at the forefront of our mind and directing how we lived and what we did. We scheduled our days around spinal taps and doctor trips. We planned our meals around cytotoxic chemotherapy drugs. We skipped going on family vacations to Hawaii because of the fear that cancer instilled in us.

This story has a bright ending, I assure you.

Through all the days and nights spent in-patient in a cramped hospital room, holidays and family events missed with loved ones, Aubrey battled and fought every inch of the way. As tired as it made us as parents, her spirit and smile forged an undying will to survive against something no child should face.

There were days that we didn’t plan things for the future. We couldn’t look two days into the future let alone plan for things like kindergarten or tee-ball lessons. But we had help along the way that included family, friends, our employers, and people we’ve never met. Groups of people we didn’t know existed until Aubrey started her fight against cancer.

Dance Marathon came into our life a few days after we got to the Children’s Hospital in Iowa City. This was a time where so many unknowns and life-threatening situations were brought to our attention, that I’d like to forget those things ever happened. I don’t want to feel that kind of despair again in my life. In fact, no one should. With the help and wonderful events Dance Marathon brought to our family, and MANY other families in similar situations, we could see that we were not alone in the battle and that the power of many outweighs the negativity we were facing.

Our life was put on pause for two and a half years because of cancer. Our eyes were opened to a world we were oblivious to. Cancer changes your entire outlook on life and how you see almost everything. It was a harsh wake up call for our family but now I wake up and see my beautiful (almost 6-year-old) daughter flourishing as a happy, healthy, and empathetic young lady. I love her more each minute.

Today, as I write this, Aubrey is sitting in her Kindergarten class learning something new that I’ll hear about in great detail tonight. I’ll then be subject to being a “student” in Ms. Aubrey’s ”class” and she’ll talk a lot, and I’ll smile a lot. Then we’ll laugh a lot. Then, when she’s not looking, I’ll smile some more.

These are the days that I dreamt of sitting in a hospital room late at night hoping to stop thinking about those things you don’t want to talk about in dealing with cancer.

Now, I have a new two-syllable word that I remind myself of everyday that won’t let me forget what Aubrey and so many other kids go through:


Tony Townsend Father of Aubrey Townsend

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