Valdosta Daily Times

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September 8, 2013

Child deals with the stress of cancer

VALDOSTA — Behind the adorable smile of a seemingly energetic 5-year-old named Addison “Addie” Seacrist lies a troubling world that few can imagine. For the past year of her life, Addie has been fighting an unimaginable battle with leukemia.

In August 2012, the Seacrists were given the devastating news that their daughter has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). As if that news wasn’t challenging enough, they were later informed that she has a specific chromosomal abnormality known as Philadelphia chromosome. This rare abnormality makes it even more challenging for her to achieve remission.

Her first year of treatment was not an easy one.

Steroid-induced diabetes, port infection, and medication-induced insomnia are just a few of the side effects from her leukemia treatments.

“She went from tiaras and tea parties to living in a hospital,” says Jason Seacrist, Addie’s father.

The challenging first year was made easier by the actions of Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, Fla., which is where Addie spent much of her time. The staff all dressed up and sang Justin Bieber songs to the young patient during a particularly challenging week. The hospital later gave her tickets so she could see the pop star perform live, which is an experience young Addie won’t soon forget.

Entering the second year of treatment has brought some welcome changes for the family. Their trips to Jacksonville are less frequent. She is enrolled at Sallas Mahone Elementary School as a kindergartener with her twin sister, Emma, a feat that would not have been possible without the help of Brookfield Academy, which helped Addie get ready for a kindergarten curriculum. While she has missed quite a few days due to illness and medical-related trips, the school has been accommodating to her needs and Addie enjoys being a student.

The medical complications and treatments have been excruciating on both Addie and her family members, but they are also dealing with the emotional effects.

Due to these experiences, Addie visits with a therapist to cope with the emotional stress of her medical condition. Her twin, Emma, also attends therapy sessions. While Emma does not have leukemia, she has stood alongside her family during this time and carries the burden of watching her twin’s life be affected by such a serious medical condition. It’s hard to imagine 5-year-olds having to battle such issues as post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety problems when they should be focused on making friends and playing dress-up, but it’s a common side effect associated with childhood cancer patients.

Through the generosity of Valdosta and its residents, Addie and Emma have both been given many positive experiences to help deal with the stress of their lives. While living in a small rental home during the early stages of her treatment, Kim McGhee of KB Horse Camp in Hahira brought horses over for the girls to ride around their tiny front yard. Numerous fundraisers have also been held in Addie’s honor both locally and in other states such as Texas and West Virginia.

“Valdosta has been unbelievable in its support,” says Jason Seacrist, “One of our goals is to pay it forward.”

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