My daughter was diagnosed with cancer at age 4. She finished her last chemo treatment and now I'm helping advocate for children like her.
- Chad Tucker's 6-year-old daughter, Pearl Monroe, just finished treatment for
- Her treatment took place during the pandemic and while Tucker's wife had their third child.
I can remember every moment of November 21, 2019. My then 4-year-old daughter Pearl Monroe, or "Roe Roe," hadn't been feeling well. For a few months leading up to that day, she'd become clingy and less boisterous. But when she stopped walking, reverting to crawling around after her sister, my wife, Meredith, went into mama-bear mode, and we took Roe Roe for testing at the children's hospital on November 20.
On the 21st, I was at the North Carolina news station where I'm an anchor. My phone rang at 3:30 p.m., just before I walked onto the set for the 4 p.m. news. It was Roe Roe's doctor, with the words no parent wants to hear.
A generation ago, children like Roe Roe died from this type of cancer. Research has, for the most part, changed that. Yet only about 4% of federal funding for cancer research targets childhood cancer. I'm now involved in fundraising and charity work to help families like mine.
We prepared for a long 2 years
I left the news station as my boss scrambled to find someone to go on air. When I walked into the house, Meredith was stunned to see me. She knew I should be on TV at that moment. I looked at her sitting on the couch, her round belly 20 weeks pregnant with our son. Roe Roe was crawling around happily on the floor.
I thought, "How can this child have something so serious?"
Telling my pregnant wife that our child had cancer was devastating. Even more so because we needed to go to the hospital immediately. We left our oldest with Meredith's parents and went to the children's hospital, where Roe Roe immediately had surgery to place a port.
She started chemo the next day.
Throughout the day, worst-case scenarios had been running through my head. But when Roe Roe's doctor looked at me, I felt peace.
"This is going to be a long two years," he said, "but we're going to fix her."
This spring, Roe Roe finished treatment
I couldn't imagine then just how long those years would be. Less than four months after Roe Roe started treatment, the pandemic hit. It felt like the whole world was now doing what we had started doing months before: hunkering down at home and praying for safety. I started recording the news in our living room.
Then, Meredith went into labor with our son. He was born on April 1, 2020 — April Fools' Day — in a hospital that was as abandoned as a ghost town. Meredith and the baby were at one hospital, while I took Roe Roe to another for treatment. That was good practice for the coming month when I would regularly leave my wife nursing our infant to keep him alive, while I took our daughter to the chemo that kept her alive.
That paid off this March when Roe Roe got to ring the victory bell, which signified her last chemo treatment. It was her sixth birthday.
Today Roe Roe is vivacious. She's the typical middle child, with a strong spirit and sense of humor. She loves to dance.
We know we're not entirely out of the woods. Roe Roe won't be "cured" from cancer until she has clean scans for five years. Even then, we've been warned that her chemo could lead to learning disabilities in middle school.
Still, we feel so lucky. When you go through cancer, it changes everything. You're a different person: One who knows what really matters and what doesn't.
Follow Chad on Instagram @chadtuckertv.
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