Little Miss Sunshine | Aleeyah |8yrs old|

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Beaming with joy, the first thing I noticed when I met Aleeyah was her smile! Aleeyah, only 8 years old was diagnosed on September 15, 2017 with stage 4 Nodual Scerolosis Hodgkins Lymphoma (NSHL). She recently began her 2nd cycle of chemotherapy at St. Francis Children’s Hospital in Tulsa, OK. As of right now, the cancer has been found in the lymph nodes in her neck, chest & abdomen. Her mom says Aleeyah is the bravest girl she knows. Now, she may be a bit biased, but I think I have to agree with her! Even when I went to visit Little Miss Sunshine in the hospital, she still gave me that big smile that can light up a room!

“My girl is my world. This is a devastating diagnosis that no one could EVER be prepared for. Although you have to be strong and stay positive, there are so many emotionally grueling days. I know there’s going to be many of those tough days ahead of us including trips to hospitals etc. We are just trying to take everything one day at a time. Prayer, having a good attitude and remembering that God is in control is how we are getting through our days.” -Hadiya, Aleeyah’s mother

Aleeyah has so much love for her 5 older bothers and her younger sister. Along with her mom and dad, her brothers are her best protectors; she’s their world. Aleeyah loves school, baking, helping those in need and especially loves her friends. She enjoys reading, writing and playing sports. Although she has missed much of the season due to illness, Aleeyah loves cheering for Union as well as playing soccer.

Aleeyah’s family is currently waiting to receive a scan to see how the 2 cycles of chemotherapy has worked thus far. Her mom tells me that Aleeyah remains in good spirits. The loss of most of her hair has caused some ups and downs, but she knows everything is going to get better day by day. Of course some days are better than others, but her family works hard at trying to keep her cheered up.

Please keep Aleeyah and her family in your prayers as they walk through this journey together. If you would like to donate to Aleeyah’s fund to help ease the financial burden her family is facing, you can click on the link below.

As always, if you know a child or teen who may be a candidate for a Journeys of Hope session, please contact me. Connect with me on Facebook: Katie Cariker Photography & Design

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Beads of Courage

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Beads of Courage

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Warrior Kai: The Fight Lives On…

This is a lengthly read, but worthy of your time.

Tawodi Kai Angus Jasper McAlpin entered this earth on June 27, 2014 & made his exit to his new home on March 14, 2017. Kai, two & a half years old, was loved by many. Although Kai’s life was short, he impacted the lives of many through his journey with cancer. On May 12, 2016, Kai was diagnosed with T-Cell ALL (Leukemia), but had a rare form with “Gamma Delta markers,” which made treatment very difficult. This rare form of cancer caused his cells to morph into having characteristics of both Lymphoma & Leukemia. Kai’s doctors never thought he’d make it far, but Kai was quite the warrior, hence #WarriorKaiMcAlpin was used throughout social media from all of his supporters.

Kai spent 95% of his post-diagnosis life in the hospital battling the life threatening disease that ravaged his little body. Kai’s condition was very rare. With only one child in remission who was treated at Stanford Children’s Hospital, Kai’s doctors collaborated with Stanford Children’s in hopes to best treat Kai. Along with Stanford, Kai’s doctors worked with Seattle, Cincinnati & St. Jude’s for guidance. Unfortunately his cancer did not respond well. According to Kai’s doctors they exhausted all chemo & treatment options & no other hospitals were willing to take him on him for treatment as a transfer patient. Although Kai’s journey ended in the loss of his life, his memory lives on in all those who advocate for pediatric cancer.

I met Kai & his family in the hospital when I took photos for them. Kai & his family touched my life in ways I cannot begin to explain. I did not think I would meet this precious, almost 3 year old boy & then not too soon after meeting, attend the celebration of his life. The service was breath taking & people from all across the communities of Tulsa, Tahlequah & surrounding areas attended to show their support. I was honored to spend almost the entire day with Kai’s family the day of the service. It was an experience I will never forget. So much love was shared.

Kai’s legacy lives on. Sweetwater Foundation is a nonprofit which includes Kai’s Warriors Against Childhood Cancer (KWACC) & The Community Cup. This foundation was started by Kai’s parents, Gary & Mariah McAlpin. When I spoke with Gary, he said that KWACC was born out of struggle & pain. Gary said his “why” is “because of his determination and fight, we continue on today, helping families stricken with childhood cancer, as well as his story being instrumental in getting a new law passed to increase funding for childhood cancer.”

I also asked Gary to speak to the struggles families with cancer face. He said that many of these families are forced to choose their careers or their children after diagnosis. Gary said the mission of the foundation “is to provide financial, mental and interfaith spiritual support to families & their children.” The foundation has already had success in helping families. According to Gary, “to date, we have been able to financially help several families with donations of thousands of dollars & we hope to continue raising the number of families & donations to help them offset their extreme expenses that come from caring for a child with cancer.”  KWACC is also in the process to become a permanent donor to the St. Francis Children’s Hospital Oncology floor with gifts that will help families who spend such a great deal of their time there.

Aside from KWACC, “The Community Cup is a Tahlequah based interfaith community development outreach that hopes to provide a coffeehouse setting for interpersonal dialogue & community building with empowerment & cultural understanding. This will be accomplished by having coffeehouse style events such as live bands, open mike nights, poetry slams, art exhibits, current event discussions, topic led conversations, youth group activities, as well as being a base for events such as blood donation, support groups, free haircuts for those who cannot afford them, dry food pantry, space for other nonprofits to meet, as well as have Cherokee language nights and cultural activities, etc. We would like to provide free-will donation drip coffee during open hours & specialized coffee drinks for sale. This outreach will provide a safe space for the Tahlequah community to gather in a positive oriented place, where all are welcome to become part of the community in a deeper and more understanding way. This setting will also provide an opportunity for area youth groups, university clubs, and any organization to help serve & learn and provide friendship and community.”

On behalf of KWACC, Gary was asked to speak at Congressman Mullin’s Tahlequah Town Hall meeting about childhood cancer & to address what needs to be done in order to help these precious children. Gary also told me that “in August, KWACC was elated to see the RACE for Children Act passed through both houses and then signed into law, with Kai’s story being told again and again to get the point across about the realities of this disease. This Act forces pharmaceutical companies to devote a much bigger percentage to childhood cancer research and create developmentally relevant medications for children, as almost all current treatments are for adults. KWACC has also been given the opportunity to use four acres of woods right in Tahlequah for a Kids Camp for families to get away from the stresses of treatment.” Sweetwater Foundation recently won a $500 grant for community development and is now in the running for another $2000 grant. They are currently applying for as many grants as possible and hope to have a building soon.

DID YOU KNOW – pediatric cancer only gets 4% of funding when it comes to research funding? So, how can you help? Where do you come in? What role can you play? You can help by simply sharing this post. You can help by supporting families. You can help by donating your funds & prayers. You can help by utilizing social media to spread awareness to the statistics. Gary said that awareness comes from sharing with all media sources: newspaper letter to editor, TV, radio, emails, Facebook, websites, churches, clubs; any platform where people exist. One way we, the community, can be involved is to call our U.S. Representatives & Senators and tell them to support the STAR ACT. This will allocate more funding for childhood cancer research and treatment. You can play a role in this. Contact your politicians. Tell them our kids are worth more than 4%. Aren’t your kids worth more than 4%? What if your child was diagnosed? Let’s raise awareness together. This cannot continue.

Here’s a stat for you from Gary & I pray this angers & shocks you…hopefully enough to prompt action on your part. In Cherokee county ALONE there have been well OVER 20 children diagnosed with some form of cancer in the last THREE years, with a FEW just in last COUPLE of months.

I asked Gary how he felt about Cherokee county not doing ANYTHING to investigate or take this EPIDEMIC seriously & he said that until EVERYONE pushes our politicians to act, our babies will continue dying from how toxic our state is due to Oklahoma not allowing environmental oversight. He also said that most families who have a child with cancer feel that society could care less about childhood cancer until it hits them. He wishes that more people would understand that it completely bankrupts families, damages siblings for life & the patient themselves for life – even if they survive – due to the chemo and radiation destroying their insides.

The McAlpin family continues to struggle some days, while other days seem ok. Gary said that “without community and the strength we have received from our supporters, I don’t see how we would have made it.” The family’s hope is to spread awareness about pediatric cancer & provide encouragement to other families who are going through unimaginable circumstances. The family would appreciate the continued prayers for success in their ventures. Kai is survived by his parents Gary and Mariah, his 6 siblings, his grandparents, his extended family as well as all of their friends.

Sweetwater Foundation is a State of OK nonprofit with a local board and 501(c)(3) status. Their Facebook page can be found by searching “Sweetwater Foundation.”
If you would like to donate to Sweetwater Foundation, you can do so by following this link: https://www.patreon.com/SweetwaterFoundation

If you know a child or adolescent who is battling a life threatening illness & would be a candidate for a Journeys of Hope session, please contact me.

Let’s make a difference.

XO- Katie Cariker

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Delainey – 4 – Leukemia

Delainey was diagnosed with B-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) on November 21, 2011. This diagnosis came  3 weeks before her 3rd birthday. She had continuous ear infections for a month before. When diagnosed, she was categorized as high risk because her white blood cell count was extremely high. As a result of this, she would need to endure a longer treatment plan. Delainey has endured 13 months of  intensive chemotherapy treatments. The first month after her diagnosis, she was in the hospital 25 of 30 days because of a blood infection. She was hospitalized 2 other times in the first year due to blood infections. She spent her 3rd and 4th birthdays in the hospital but finally on December 28, 2012, Delainey entered the maintenance phase of her treatment. She will be in this phase for a total of 2 years. Throughout her treatments Delainey has not lost her amazing spirit or infectious personality. Whether in the clinic or hospital, she loves to go and visit the other kids and enjoys playing with them. Delainey is always full of big hugs and smiles, she also never meets a stranger! Please pray for sweet Delainey and her family as they go through this journey.
Here are photos from our Journeys of Hope session. I hope these photos will help you put faces to your prayers for this family.
As always, feel free to leave comments on here, the family can see them! Leave some words of hope and encouragement for them to enjoy!
To learn more about Journeys of Hope Tulsa contact Katie Cariker at katiecariker@yahoo.com

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Update

First and foremost, JJ is doing great and is recovering from the surgery. He has a follow up appointment on the 16th &

will have his port put back in shortly after that to start doing chemo again. He only had to lose one organ, a single kidney &

God is working in his life : ) Continue to pray for JJ and his family as they keep walking on this long road to healing.

Follow JJ’s journey on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/277762529009613/?fref=ts

I’m happy to announce that Journeys of Hope is getting out there! I am so thankful for everyone who is passing the word on to families and other organizations.

1st on the list: the upcoming CureSearch walk for childhood cancers…

Some of you guys have been asking how you can help…I’ve got a great opportunity for you to join in on something great! CureSearch is an organization that funds research for childhood cancers…CureSearch walk is September 28th, 2013…NOW I know that’s awhile from now BUT I wanted to let you all know!

Adults/$10 & 15 and under are FREE!!! YES FREE! This is a very family oriented event so bring out the kids and we can all enjoy the event together!

There will be lots of activities and games along with prizes for the kiddos!

Simply go to this link and click “join our team!” As always, if you have questions please contact me: Katie Cariker- katiecariker@yahoo.com

http://www.curesearchwalk.org/faf/search/searchTeamPart.asp?ievent=1047063&lis=1&kntae1047063=D5FC4AF22AF3405F86F4510F8E1EC4C8&team=5489609&tlteam=0

I will be dong a t-shirt pre-sale and I will post the photo of what the shirt will look like on here in a few days…they are $10 and proceeds will be donated to CureSearch

2nd on the list: amazing organizations I want to mention that I’ve come in contact with so far!

Emmy’s Heart (Oklahoma Chapter): FOX 23 news segment about Emmy’s Heart Oklahoma featuring 3 year old Delainey- http://www.fox23.com/news/local/story/Emmys-Heart-Tutus-capes-for-children-battling/XhWMDxfmxkutla5TKqXE7w.cspx Visit the facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/EmmysHeartOklahoma

Happy to volunteer my services to Make-A-Wish Oklahoma chapter. Visit them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/makeawishoklahoma

Visit them on the web at: http://www.randomactsofpurpose.com or on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/randomactsofpurpose

Despite what some may think about “PINK” this organization actually helps women, men & children!!!!

There are many different “chapters” of Turn Tulsa Pink (ie. Jenks, Bixby, Sperry…)

find them online at: http://www.turntulsapink.org or on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/PinkTulsa

Lastly, Families Fighting Childhood Cancer, a part of Oklahoma Family Network (http://www.oklahomafamilynetwork.org) & find Families Fighting Childhood Cancer on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/familiesfightingchildhoodcancer

3rd thing to tell you all about: some of you have been asking how you can get bracelets for Holly (https://www.facebook.com/Fighting4Holly), JJ & Delainey….

Holly’s bracelets are $3/1 or $5/2 & the bracelets for Dealainey and JJ are $3/1

If you’d like a bracelet contact me at katiecariker@yahoo.com and I will get you in touch with the right person to purchase them : )

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JJ – 19 months – Neuroblastoma

Hello everyone, I’d like you to meet JJ.

JJ was 14 months old when he was diagnosed with stage 4 Neuroblastoma after being taken to the doctor for a rash. On September 26, 2012, he had a biopsy done on the tumor, which confirmed the diagnosis. When the tumor was biopsied it released adrenaline which in turn spiked JJ’s blood pressure up to 214/118 and put him in the PICU for 8 days. To this day he still takes 4 blood pressure medications daily. JJ was in the hospital for a total of 18 days that first time. Since then, he has had 7 rounds of chemo that last anywhere from 3-5 days & has one more to go. He will receive that 8th round of chemo after the major surgery coming up next week on March 14th to remove the tumor as well as his Spleen, left Kidney and a portion of his large intestine. Throughout his treatment he has been hospitalized 9 times but he always remains in good spirits. He started walking after his 3rd round of chemo, the doctors think it’s because the tumor shrunk some and he could finally balance enough to be able to walk. JJ is always happy and always learning new things despite his situation.

“He has had so many prayers from people around the world it never ceases to amaze me how God has touched our lives with this little boy and touched so many other people’s lives since he was diagnosed. We believe that through God and our prayers that our JJ has a purpose here in this world. We believe he will remain strong and beat a cancer that only gives him a 30% chance of surviving, because for us JJ is a little superhero!” -JJ’s mom, Heather.

Please pray for JJ and his family. The surgery he will undergo next Thursday, March 14th, will be a 10-15 hour surgery & DOCTORS say there is only about a 20% chance he will survive the surgery. BUT we serve a big, mighty God who is a God of miracles. Stand in faith with us! Pray that God will guide the surgeons’ hands during the surgery and that JJ’s body will be strong and handle it well. Please pray for peace for the family and safe travel to OKC for the surgery. JJ will be admitted to the hospital Wednesday and the surgery will take place first thing Thursday morning. Let’s spread the word and get tons of prayers for JJ and his family.

Here is a Tulsa World article written about JJ:

To follow JJ’s journey stay tuned on Journeys of Hope and follow his Facebook page:

Here are photos from our Journeys of Hope session today. I hope these photos will help you put faces to your prayers for this family.

I had the opportunity to pray with the family before they left and JJ even gave me a hug and a kiss, he is oh so precious. Thank you for all of your prayers I know Heather and John appreciate it! I will try my best to keep everyone updated. Be blessed.

PS- Feel free to leave comments on here, the family can see them! Leave some words of hope and encouragement for them!

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Hannah – 11 – Mitochondrial Disease not otherwise specified

Hope you all are having a blessed day! I want you all to meet Hannah!

Beautiful Hannah is an eleven year old who has a heart to become a missionary and world changer. She is determined to prove to the world that no matter the odds stacked against you, you can do anything. Those odds do NOT have to determine your future. Her spunky personality was challenged at a very young age when it was clear that she had some very serious health issues that put stress on most of her organ systems. It is thought that her condition is related to a genetic condition called a mitochondrial disease but, one thing that is clearly NOT in her DNA is quitting! When Hannah was six she had a feeding tube placed to help support her metabolic needs. Currently, and for the last five years, Hannah has carried a special backpack (or been attached to an i.v. pole) that holds a special pump and tubing that run directly into her stomach. The pump forces the necessary nutrients through special tubing and a valve that is implanted in her stomach. During the time when she was the most ill, she endured 25 hospitalizations in a two and a half year time frame, was sometimes sleeping 20 hours a day, and was on 32 medications. Because of the complexity of her health challenges, the family needs to travel to see her specialists in New York, Cleveland Clinic and the New Orleans area. With many prayers, the excellent care from her specialty teams and God’s miraculous healing in her life Hannah is doing better. She is currently on a minimal amount of medication and is enjoying the opportunity to attend school and make new friends. It is also no surprise that she planning her first mission trip.

I hope that Hannah’s story can be a source of hope and encouragement to you and your families current struggle(s). Prayer is so powerful! Let’s continue to lift Hannah and her family up in prayer that she may continue to thrive and be the healthy, vibrant eleven year old God intended her to be!

To follow Hannah’s journey visit her CaringBridge at: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/hannahjordan

Here are some photos from Hannah’s Journeys of Hope session. Be blessed!

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