Where it all began... Three years ago we had an idea that blossomed into LIVFREE. TheSportsCenter Connecticut was generous enough to hold a fundraiser for our family to cover expenses of Lauren’s medical bills, we decided to pay it forward to another family in need. The rest is history...... “Feeling so blessed!!! At the Vieira's fundraising event I was the first recipient of their fundraiser and it was all so I can make up for lost time with Jason. Anyone who knows me knows that the separation from Jason was the hardest thing I dealt with this past year. Harder than the cancer, side effects, infections, kidneys failing, surgeries, amputation, septic shock, etc!!! Being away from my baby was the hardest!!! I now have memberships for the aquarium, chileren's museum, can go to Chelsea Piers sports complex with him, can go out to eat with him, go to the movies, and my baby will do a summer camp session at Chelsea Piers also!!! 😊❤️” #livfree#fun #cancerisntwinningoverhere#pediatriccancer #childhoodcancer#cancerawareness #cancer #cancersucks #family#familytime #events #helpothers #smile#oncology #chemotherapy #chemo #health#charity #givingback #leukemia #survivor#nonprofit
We are on our way to cook lunch and supply the Ronald McDonald House with pantry goods. This couldn’t have been done without all of our supporters. Here is a photo of all the donations made via Amazon. Thank you all again!
Lauren was able to take the LivFree car for a ride this weekend. We are hoping the LivFree team places in the top 5 in this year’s Maker Faire. #cancerisntwinningoverhere #pediatriccancer#childhoodcancer #cancerawareness #cancer #cancersucks #family#familytime #events #helpothers #smile #oncology #chemotherapy#chemo #health #charity #givingback #leukemia #survivor #nonprofit
Today was a HUGE day for us as we were able to provide family fun to our 80th family. A couple of weeks ago two lovely ladies threw a Gala for Gold and raised funds for LivFree. Katrina and I promised that we would use those funds for a very special family. This morning we fulfilled our promise and went to LaGuardia airport and picked up a family that flew into NYC from Minnesota!!! They will be spending the next few days in New York and seeing all the beautiful attractions.
Their eldest son was diagnosed with Leukemia for the second time. On March 1st he finished a 6 month isolation after receiving a bone marrow transplant from his younger brother. Due to his treatment, he missed the chance at a class trip to NYC. Now, just a few weeks after his isolation, he is now in the city with his whole family!
We could not have done this without the generosity of so many wonderful people. We will post more updates of their trip soon! Thank you all so much!
Wow, what an incredible night, I am in total awe of what is taking place for livfree. Just two years ago we were just two parents fighting cancer with our baby girl. Last night we were attending a gala in honor of livfree. It’s has been an incredible journey to say the least. We started out with what we thought was a crazy goal of helping 100 families fighting pediatric cancer enjoy family time. And now we are steadily approaching on that goal. This weekend we will assist our 80th family and it couldn’t be done without the help of our supporters. Over 120 people came out to support LivFree and we are beyond humbled.
Thank you and congratulations to Kristen and Amanda for such a great event. You guys knocked it out of the park. We promise that every ounce of hard work that you put into that event will go towards helping families in need.
We brought Lauren in to her pediatrician because of some bruising. We weren’t overly concerned, kids get bruises. The pediatrician shared our sentiments but had us go to the lab to get some blood work anyway. As I waited with Lauren in my arms patiently, I saw the reaction from the technician. She turned ghost white as she reviewed the results. She printed them and struggled to put them into the envelope as she was nervously shaking. She called our pediatrician and he told me that I had to bring Lauren to the emergency room at Yale.
This was the very beginning. I picked up Katrina from work and headed up there. I couldn’t muster the courage to tell her that it was serious, maybe I didn’t want to think that it was serious. I down played it, but I knew it was serious because of the technician, her look will stay with me forever.
Hours passed (maybe they were minutes, there was no way of telling because our world had stopped) and in walked an oncologist. I remember thinking, “what in the world is an oncologist doing in here, kids don’t get cancer.” I was wrong, so very very wrong. Lauren, our baby, had cancer at just 16 months old.
For me, everything became a blur. The nurses and doctors were in and out of the room, Katrina and I hadn’t slept or eaten. It was a complete whirlwind. One thing I do remember was sitting in the room, I put a pillow over my face and cried like I’ve never cried before. It didn’t last long, but I remember screaming. I lifted my head and looked to my left and I saw her face. With lines coming out of her and blood transfusions pumping into her, Lauren looked at me concerned. Not for herself but for me. It was that exact moment is where I had a paradigm shift.
We often talk about Lauren’s strength but there really are no words to describe. We witnessed her endure things that no person should ever have to. She was always so matter of fact about everything. She rarely gave us any trouble with medicine or procedures (although she HATED bandaids or tape being pulled off). I can go on and on and on....
Now she gets monthly check ups for blood work (to make sure it hasn’t come back). They are debilitating to Katrina and I. There’s always that fear of relapse. We get nervous at any fever, sign of tiredness and bruises... those damn bruises.
We can’t say enough about how proud we are of Lauren. At just 16 months old she took that part of her life and courageously faced it. Although we are never out of the woods with this whole cancer thing, we are happy to have closed the door on it. Now, at 4 years old, we know she can tackle anything and we look forward to the next door for Lauren to go through...
Katrina’s letter to Lauren two years ago....
A year ago this evening your father and I laid on our respective cots in your hospital room as we watched you take transfusion after transfusion anxiously awaiting morning so we can have some answers. Seeing that our only options were a rare virus or Leukemia based on your original blood work, we prayed hard that night that the C word wouldn't be uttered the next day... but it was. Our world was rocked. Our Angel, the sweetest little girl was facing Cancer. I felt my heart skip a beat and my legs give as the Doctors laid out your treatment... And the urgency, that's what killed me. You were just twirling around the living room to Mickey and now we're sitting there scheduling your first surgery. At 16 months old, without even knowing it, you were traveling down what may be the toughest journey of your life. And with every new medication/procedure, you haven't lost your smile- I love you for that. Now at two, you're stronger than most people I know, including myself. You actually had to hold my hand for my flu shot - thank you 😊.
People ask us all the time how we can handle going through this, but we know that we're just there for the ride. You have control of the wheel. And when it becomes hard to manage, we hold you a little tighter and kiss you a little more. My hope is that you look back at this one day and realize what an amazing woman you are. You have touched so many lives already, and you can barely speak. I can't wait to see what you do once you're writing!
So for all the scars you have to bear, wear them with pride. It's a reflection of how strong you had to be to beat cancer!
Love you muffin 💛
The world is definitely in good hands. The kids just get it when it comes to helping others. Peyton is the daughter of a Marine brother of mine, that I served with back in 05-06. He had followed our story and shared it with her. She then told him that for her birthday she wanted to help our cause and donate to help kids battling cancer. Well she had her 9th birthday party yesterday, and true to her word she has raised enough money to send two families to Disney on Ice next week. Thank you Peyton, you have truly made an impact on those in need. Happy birthday young lady, and thank you for being so selfless. Please take a second to wish her a Happy Birthday. -Daniel
Our baby girl is 4 today!!! She has been through so much in her short time but she has been an absolute inspiration to many. We are truly blessed to be her parents and to be able to witness such strength. Her birthdays were never guaranteed so we have a deeper appreciation for them now.
One day when she is old enough we hope she will go through this page and witness her own journey. So if you will, please leave a quick note below for her to read at a later date. We will also leave you with some words that have changed our world...
You never know what the future holds so you should hold the ones you love extra tight. Do the things you've wanted to do and smile often. Find the blessings in everything you encounter. Do something nice for someone and be the change you want to see.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. We will never forget the day the Dr said those haunting words, "your child has cancer." If you've never been apart of this community then you'd almost never think about it, we didn't. We couldn't believe it, we didn't know things like this really happen. We saw commercials on TV but never thought they actually happened in real life. Well, it does. Kids get cancer frequently, a new child is diagnosed about once every three minutes.
We are trying to combat this disease with smiles. We know how important it is to keep the family together and as close to their "normal" as possible. To put our own unique touch on raising awareness we will be hosting a FREE and open to the public movie night on September 16 in Trumbull. You can find more information on our Facebook page our our website. We would love for you to join us.
This month we will be sharing some of the photos of the young kids and their families that we have had the honor to have met during or after their battle. You will see how bright their smiles shine.
We will start the month with the inspiration behind LivFree, Lauren. This was her first check up since ending her chemotherapy treatments. She was showing us where they had pricked her finger to draw blood. We saw it as her telling cancer exactly how we all feel about it.#cancerisntwinningoverhere #livfree#pediatriccancer
A few weeks ago Lauren had surgery to remove her port and we were able to pick it up from the surgeons office today. Chills came over my body when I first held it. For those that aren't familiar with a port, it is a medical device that is implanted under the skin and is attached to a vein, close to the heart. This provided easier access for doctors and nurses to administer chemotherapy intravenously. They would simply give her an "ouchie" by pricking a needle through the skin and into the port. I've spoken before about the meaning of the port to us. The scar on her chest will continue to be a reminder of how strong she is.
This picture represents so much to us. Lauren had the cancer but we all were there to fight it with her. We can't stress enough how much the family unit is effected when a child is diagnosed with cancer. Lauren's brother, Armando, was such a trooper. Often, we had to keep him away from other kids when Lauren's immune system was comprised. He missed out on many things but we did what we could to keep a sense of "normalcy". He was such a great brother while she was going through treatment too. He would always look after her and frequently ask questions. Although he was young, he understood that Lauren was sick and he always cared for her. He helped keep her morale high and we believe that he played a major role in helping her throughout treatment. This is why LIVFREE focuses so much on the family. We know that siblings are also in the battle....
Photo credit: Sandro de Carvalho
#tbt #throwbackthursday #livfree #pediatriccancer
What an emotional day yesterday! Lauren's port removal surgery went as well as to be expected. She, as always, was amazing during prep/recovery and even in the room before anesthesia. They were able to get it out without any complications and after about an hour or so she woke up with a good appetite. We have been home allowing her to rest as needed but to our amazement has been doing her best to keep up with Armando. We're convinced that there is nothing that she can't handle. We are so appreciative of her strength and all the doctors, nurses and surgeons that have gotten her to this point. We will always be indebted to them for our baby's health 💛.
Lauren has fueled up for the next chapter in her battle. This morning she goes in for a minor surgery to remove her port. For those not familiar, a portacath or port, is a medical device implanted under the skin that is directly connected to a vein. This makes the administration of chemo and drawing of blood much simpler. It's another signal (last major) of the end of her treatment so it is another "good" milestone. We are definitely excited but still nervous and prayers and thoughts are once again requested.
Today she will receive a scar on her chest, close to her heart. She will forever wear that scar as a constant reminder of the most important battle she has or will ever face. I hope that she is never insecure or embarrassed by this scar. I hope that she will wear it with pride. I hope she realizes that it represents the strength she has but more importantly the strength she gave to others.
Today Lauren goes to the clinic for her first post chemo checkup. They will draw blood and check her counts. The anxiety is pretty strong right now as we can't help but to be nervous. For over 2.5 years chemo has been keeping the cancer away and now there is no more chemo. Such a paradox, a chemical that could kill her actually kept her alive.... Lauren has been doing great since. She has a ton of energy, laughs so much and is so happy. We are pretty confident that all will go well today, just anxious. Once we get the good results back Lauren will be able to ring the bell. This is a huge milestone for her as it indicates the end of her treatment. We will be sure to post the update tomorrow. In the meantime a small positive thought or prayer is requested. Again, thank you all for the support.
Wow, what a day. We cannot thank the 300+ people that came out in the rain to support us as a family and as an organization. We are going to be taking a short break from fundraising and we are going to focus on helping families. To date we have assisted 50 families, all thanks to your continued help and support. We do have our second annual movie night already set for September 16th. We promise that will be a blast!
As for us, we are going to be finding our "new normal". We have lived the life of daily chemo, weekly doctors visits and everything else that goes along with cancer treatments for over two years. We are so happy for Lauren to be done and we are looking forward to this new chapter.
Our good friend, Ryan Kassim put together a great little collection of our celebration at the Zoo. Be sure to take a look at all the special moments!
Our baby is flexing on her IV pole! Lauren had her last dose of vincristine today. It's a huge milestone as it is her last intravenous chemo. We are very overwhelmed by emotion. It has been the fastest two and a half long years ever (it makes total sense if you lived it). There is so much to reflect upon as so much has happened. Cancer has changed our lives in so many ways and although we wish Lauren never had cancer, we are grateful for all the blessings it has given us.
Three more weeks until we are done with mercaptopurine.
Three more weeks until we are done with methotrexate.
Three more weeks until we are done with vincristine.
Three more weeks until we are done with dexamethasone.
Three more weeks until we are done with Pepcid.
Three more weeks until we are done with lactulose.
Three more weeks until we are done with all this chemo, God willing.
Also, three more weeks until we celebrate at the Zoo! Be sure to join us.
This week has been a complete whirlwind. There have been some really high highs and some pretty tough lows. Being apart of this community has definitely been the most intense emotional rollercoaster you can ever imagine. We realize that we have been blessed this far with Lauren's response to treatment but we always live with the fear of bad news. Though we hope we never get that news, the reality is that there are families that do. We take comfort in knowing that those families are rooting for us as much as we are for them, but it can still be hard to share our progress.
Today was a huge milestone as Lauren had her last lumbar puncture. This is the hardest procedure for us as we witness her get put under sedation, fluid drawn from her spine and then chemo administered through the same needle. We keep talking about how strong she is but you really have to witness this to truly understand her strength. When she woke up, she didn't miss a beat and enjoyed a tea party and then some pizza. I swear you'd never know what she had just been through.
Pictured below is Lauren as stylish as ever. We've said this before but if you're going to have chemo you might as well do it in style. We are so happy this is all coming to an end but we are also keeping our thoughts with the other families still fighting.
St. Patrick's Day is a huge milestone for Lauren. Two years ago she was declared in remission, meaning they didn't detect anymore cancerous cells. Leukemia is different from most cancers as treatment last way past remission. She has been on chemo daily for the last 2 years and two months. She has only one more month of chemo treatment and hopefully, god willing, she will have beaten cancer for good. It's been a very long road so today is a cause to celebrate. As she gets older St Patrick's Day will have a great meaning for her and I couldn't think of a better day to celebrate.