On October 11, 2008 my then 8 year old Grandson, Chandler Miller was taken to his pediatrician because his left eye appeared to be swollen. At the time he also had a sinus infection. Chandler was treated for infection with antibiotics and was told to return in 10 days if his eye did not get better.
His eye did not get better, but in fact appeared to be worse. Chandler’s parents took him back to his pediatrician who referred them to an eye specialist. A MRI of Chandler’s brain and orbits was scheduled. A tumor was found and Chandler was referred to an opthamolic plastic surgeon. On October 31, 2008 Dr. Kulwin performed a biopsy of the tumor. Chandler was “unofficially” diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS). A consultation was scheduled for Chandler’s parents with Children’s Hospital Oncology Drs. Cripes and George for November the 5th.
On the 5th, as a family we met with Dr. Cripes and Dr. George and Chandler was “officially” diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS). This is also the day that TEAM CHANDLER was born.
Upon receiving the diagnosis, Chandler and I stepped out into the waiting room. This allowed his parents to consult freely with the Doctors to decide on a course of treatment for Chandler which was to include 22 chemotherapy treatments and 25 radiation treatments. While we waited Chandler and I talked. I told him we would fight this as a team and we would win. He said he would kick cancer’s butt. I said “Oh, Yeah, We’re Going For the Knock-Out!” We did a high five.
Our family had already been through so much with my daughter who had battled Follicular Thyroid Cancer. The night after the diagnosis I felt the same feeling as when my daughter was diagnosed. I remembered the daily fear that I would lose my daughter and realized I wasn’t the rock she needed me to be. Now it was my Grandson. I cried myself to sleep. When I woke up the next morning I knew I needed to be strong for him and for his parent’s. I literally heard the theme from the movie “Rocky” in my head. I thought of the movie “Life Is Beautiful” where the father and son are taken by the German’s and are in a concentration camp and the Father makes his son think it is a game. The son was never afraid. I wanted our family to do this for Chandler. As a family we started a TEAM CHANDLER MySpace where family and friends quickly joined. We took everyone on Chandler’s journey with daily updates and pictures. Our theme became TEAM CHANDLER “Going For the Knock-Out”. Each chemotherapy treatment we would call them Rounds. “Round One Going For The KO”, then “Round Two Going For The KO”…etc. We bought Chandler boxing gloves and a silk boxing robe with TEAM CHANDLER on it for him to wear to his hospital stays. Knowing he would lose his hair family members threw a “Mr. Clean Party“. T-shirts and hats were made for the event. Snacks and prizes were shared. Some of our family and friends shaved their heads along with and in honor of Chandler. We wanted him to feel in control. We rented a Post Office Box and asked for mail. Cards, letters, notes of encouragement and support, even small gifts started coming daily. Chandler would look forward to daily trips to the Post Office to see if he had mail. He would go onto the MySpace and communicate with his “friends”. He delighted as the number grew. Unable to go to school these things helped Chandler stay connected with people and to feel supported. Fundraisers were thrown for the family to help with expenses.
The difference all this made for our family and Chandler’s journey was priceless. He felt like a rock star. Our family felt supported and loved. We realized how important this was and we vowed that when Chandler became well we would keep TEAM CHANDLER going. We knew we wanted to “Pay It Forward”. TEAM CHANDLER started with family and grew with friends. Soon people from all over joined to help support our cause.
We are now TEAM CHANDLER, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non- profit organization committed to supporting children with a life threatening illness, as well as their family.
President – Founder