LAKE WYLIE — Derek Revels seems more lottery winner than pediatric cancer parent.
Sitting at home during an early evening with his wife and two daughters, maybe hes both.
If you wanted your kid to have cancer, the stars really lined up for us, said the Fort Mill data analyst.
Of course, neither he nor his wife, Elizabeth, wanted anything like what happened to Emma almost two years ago. Halfway between her first and second birthdays, Emma got sick. The diagnosis came two days after Christmas. Doctors called it acute lymphocytic leukemia.
Treatment began. Elizabeth felt like she had to stop parenting sister Ashlynn, who just started kindergarten this year, to keep pace. Emma quickly earned her Curveball Queen nickname for the struggles atypical to her cancer. There was the fungal infection and several problems with her medical port. There were extra surgeries.
Emmas parents fought hard to find the bright side even in the darkest moments. Elizabeth began staying home when Emma was born, so the family was used to one paycheck. Grandparents on both sides just retired or moved close to the family. Levine Childrens Hospital sat right up the road.
Elizabeth knew nothing would be the same after the diagnosis, but was thankful for the time before it.
I got to have some time with her before she was sick, Elizabeth said.
Emma, 3, is her big sisters shadow. They share favorite colors and favorite stories, whichever Ashlynn picks at a given time. Theyre almost inseparable. Emma is learning kindergarten lessons Ashlynn brings home, like how to write the letter C, and sometimes an occasional O, mom says.
Too bad we didnt name her Coco, Elizabeth said.
Theres plenty to Emma beyond her sister. She loves pickles and dancing. Shes attentive. Her smile could unlock bank vaults, and she isnt shy about using it. Theres a neighborhood friend she wont quite call a boyfriend yet.
If Emma is delicate, she doesnt know it. The soft cast on her right hand isnt cancer-related. Its reenactment-related. A coffee table came a little too close in a living room couch rendition of the no more monkeys jumping on the bed scene from a favorite book.
Her parents werent racing to sign up for a broken hand. But they know there are worse things than a child energetic enough to jump on the couch. Some parents lament their children acting like 3-year-olds. Elizabeth calls it the biggest blessing ever.
The Revels family hasnt won an actual lottery. But if ever they do, the winning numbers might be 04, 11, 20 and 14.
If all goes as well as it has so far, April 11, 2014, is the date when Emma will take her last cancer treatment. Its a Friday. Its the first afternoon of spring break. And itll be a party like rock stars event to rival even the one coming Sunday in Lake Wylie.
It was awesome, Derek said of learning Emma would be this years recipient of Lake Wylie Childrens Charity fundraising. Its nice that there are organizations out there that help families that need it.
From noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, scores of volunteers will put on a lakeside concert and silent auction beside T-Bones on the Lake. Itll be the 11th year helping families facing cancer. The largest of five major events throughout the year, the concert will help collect what annually totals tens of thousands of dollars.
At planning meetings, Elizabeth heard constant updates of past families, which mean as much to her as a check will. For her, it means people who didnt know her family a year ago, truly care.
They dont stop supporting the kids once the benefit is over, Elizabeth said.
Despite the strong outlook, life is still a really weird balancing act and we have fallen several times, Elizabeth said. Just this month, they spent a week with bags packed for the hospital because of a high fever.
But the family cant help smiling. Maybe its the medicine, the hours mom has for her girls, family nearby, the renowned pediatric unit, the type of cancer or the blindsiding community support. The family knew there would be nothing normal about a cancer diagnosis. As it turns out, it may not be the worst news they couldve heard.
Weve given up on normal, Elizabeth said.
Weve never really gotten too comfortable in trying to define this as normal.
Want to go?
The Lake Wylie Childrens Charity benefit concert begins at noon Sunday on the lawn at T-Bones on the Lake, 3990 S.C. 9, Lake Wylie. For information about the event, visit lkwchildrenscharity.org.
More ways to help
Anytime Fitness will hold its second annual Super Hero 5K & Kids 1-mile Fun Run at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 12 to benefit the Lake Wylie Childrens Charity. 5K registration costs $25, while the fun run is $10. Register at Anytime Fitness-Lake Wylie, 131 Evergreen Road, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday or 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, or online at active.com. Same-day registration will be available. Visit lkwchildrenscharity.org for more information.