Relay’s “Roll For Life” fundraiser scheduled for Sept. 17

Published 5:54 pm Monday, September 12, 2011

Cancer doesn’t rest, and the Chilton County Relay For Life Committee doesn’t plan to rest, either.

The committee’s newest fundraising event, “Roll For Life,” is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 17 from 9-11 a.m. at Southern Country Dance & Skate in Clanton.

The first annual “Roll For Life” will honor Lilianna Thompson, of Clanton, who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia this year.

Relay Chairwoman Aimee Eiland said September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and all proceeds from Lilianna’s event will benefit Relay For Life 2012.

The cost to skate is $5, but admission is free for anyone not skating.

Concessions, face-painting and cancer awareness materials will be available.

Along with its efforts to raise funds year round, the committee wanted to offer something kids could be involved with, as well as encourage Lilianna and her family through her personal battle, Eiland said.

Life usually doesn’t tell people what their toughest battles will be ahead of time, or when they will need to polish their armor and be ready to fight.

Life called Lilianna to fight at the tender age of 2.

Lilianna was diagnosed with AML on Friday, Aug. 19 and is receiving treatment at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.

AML is cancer of the blood cells and bone marrow, and “acute” denotes its rapid progression, according to the Mayo Clinic.

As such, treatment for AML is aggressive, but the disease is curable. Lilianna’s treatment includes six months of chemotherapy. She is finished with her first round and is in a waiting period for her blood cell counts to come back up.

“Once they reach a certain number, they (doctors) will do another bone marrow biopsy to see if she is in remission,” said Anna Thompson, Lilianna’s mother. “She will still have to continue and finish the next three rounds of chemo over the next six months, so that this terrible disease will not come back.”

Thompson said Lilianna adjusted to her treatments almost immediately. She now knows what a blood pressure cuff and stethoscope are and where they are used, she will sit still during her X-rays and she will even help push medicine into her port.

Lilianna and her nurse have nicknamed the lumens, or tubes, extending from her medicine ports “Dora” and “Diego.”

“She adapted almost right off the bat,” Thompson said. “She is the most amazing, strong and brave child I have ever seen in my life.”

Lilianna’s diagnosis came on the coattails of a high fever and red, swollen gums.

“After several days of Tylenol and Motrin every three hours trying to get the fever to break, I decided there was something going on in her body and she needed to be seen as quick as possible,” Thompson said. “Her pediatrician thought it was leukemia.”

Multiple blood tests confirmed the initial diagnosis, and Lilianna was admitted to Children’s Hospital immediately to begin her treatment.

“You really don’t think about stuff like this until it happens to you and changes your life forever,” Thompson said. “I also learned really quick that this leukemia did not happen because of something that I did or didn’t do as a mom. I could not have prevented this from happening, although I wish I could.

“I know God has a plan for Lilianna,” Thompson said. “It is nothing that I can see at the moment, but I know that it is going to be great.”

Lilianna and her mother have settled into a routine at the hospital, and Randy, Lilianna’s father, and other relatives and friends visit as often as they can.

When she isn’t hooked up to her IV pole for her antibiotics, Lilianna considers herself “free” and likes to play in an age-appropriate room at the hospital called “The Lily Pad.”

“How fitting, right?” Thompson said. “This room has tons of toys and arts and crafts to keep her busy.”

For all intents and purposes, Lilianna seems anything but a cancer patient.

Thompson said the diagnosis was shocking because Lilianna had always been a healthy baby.

“I wish I would have known everything there is to know about this disease before she was diagnosed, but it’s one of those things that you say, ‘It won’t happen to my child,’” Thompson said. “She has never been sick with a virus or anything. It was literally like this dropped out of the sky and landed on my baby.”

Thompson said she hopes Lilianna’s story and the “Roll For Life” event will help spread awareness of childhood cancers, especially leukemia.

“It means the world to me, and (I) feel so honored to have an event in honor of Lilianna,” Thompson said. “We will definitely be walking that survivor walk in the spring at Relay For Life, holding our heads high with a big smile on our faces.”