The Journey

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The Journey (1997 – 2002)

It’s impossible to capture 4 ½ years of tragedy, even in 200 photographs. Sometimes it’s gut wrenching to look at photos of Danny during those years of chemotherapy—they’re reminders of pain, fear, uncertainty and, ultimately, loss. But just as often they’re reminders of a courageous and hard-fought battle and of a young man who never lost his resilience, dignity or sense of humor. There’s one constant in these photos—The Smile!

After an emergency splenectomy in November 1997, Danny was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) at age 10. Most of his treatment took place at the Kaiser Sunset facilities in Los Angeles under the care of Dr. Robert Cooper. In November 1999, while still on maintenance chemo, Danny relapsed. A bone marrow transplant was discussed and Stephen was found to be a perfectly matched donor. The consensus medical opinion, however, was that a stepped-up protocol of chemotherapy and radiation was a safer course. To save travel time and hospitalization in LA, Danny began receiving treatment in Bakersfield at CBCC in early 2000 under the care of Dr. Ravi Patel.

In the summer of 2001, just after graduating from Tevis Junior High, Danny completed his 18-month relapse chemotherapy. It was a time of relief, celebration and anticipation. Our family celebrated by taking the “trip of a lifetime” to Japan that summer (see link). Danny entered Stockdale High School that fall, more than eager to spend his first full year in school since the 4th grade…but in January 2002 the cancer came back. He then endured a 39-day hospital stay, heavy chemotherapy, and a period of dialysis. The attempt to get him back into remission, and ready for a bone marrow transplant, failed. Danny came home on the evening of February 28th.

Danny was incredibly protective of his family during his final weeks; he didn’t want us to suffer or be afraid. He told his Mom several times that he was not afraid to die, and that he knew this would be harder on his family than on him. On March 11th, Dr. Cooper estimated that Danny had 3-4 weeks left, but he was gone only four days later.

Thankfully, the end was not difficult or prolonged. We believe it was an act of his will that he went when he did. Danny knew that hospice was coming for the first time that Friday and he probably thought, “The heck with that!” So, he left, peacefully and with little more than an hour of warning. He handled the departure from his earthly home with a grace and dignity that the rest of aspire to. Danny died in his bedroom, in his Mom’s arms, at 7:00AM on March 15, 2002.

His room remains as it was that morning – but his home and family are forever changed.

Total Pictures:  161

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