Fort Worth, Texas,
10:38 AM

Marriage Proposal Follows Child's Life-Changing Diagnosis

Family shares emotional impact of neuroblastoma

Josh and Ashley were just hours away from boarding an airplane for what should have been one of the most memorable trips of their lives.

Spending Thanksgiving week in Illinois, surrounded by Ashley’s family, Josh knew this would be his chance to ask her to marry him. But before they could leave, their 4-month-old daughter, Harper, had an appointment with a Cook Children’s pediatrician.

“She had been spitting up quite a bit. We thought she was a reflux baby and might need a higher dosage of medication,” said Ashley. “We had no idea our world would come crumbling down in 72 hours.”

Their appointment was with Catherine Hampton, D.O. at Cook Children’s primary care location on Keller Parkway. She suggested an ultrasound to make sure an internal blockage wasn’t the cause of Harper’s problems. Though it would delay their trip, Josh and Ashley decided not to wait and booked an appointment for the following day. Little did they know this was the best decision they could have made. The results revealed a mass on the little girl’s pelvis. After a brief round of tests, Harper was diagnosed with neuroblastoma and admitted to Cook Children’s Hematology/Oncology Center in Fort Worth.

“Everything changed so fast. We weren’t really able to process what was happening to our family,” said Josh.

Just three days after her initial appointment, Harper underwent surgery to remove the tumor. By this time, both Josh and Ashley’s families had converged on Cook Children’s. Surrounded by love and support, Harper would spend the following week fighting to get better.

“We spent Ashley’s birthday at Cook Children’s and Thanksgiving,” said Josh.

By Thanksgiving Day, Harper had made a huge improvement. She came off of her IV, had her nasogastric tube removed and was finally able to eat formula again.

But that’s not the end of the good news.

“One night, while walking around with my parents, I noticed this beautiful spot lit up with Christmas lights. That’s when I got the idea in my head,” said Josh.

On Thanksgiving night, Josh took Ashley to that spot and got down on one knee. His mother was able to capture the moment Ashley said ‘yes’.

“The picture means a lot to us. To see a Cook Children’s sign right in the middle, some people may wonder what I was thinking,” said Josh.

“It’s a good reminder for us to be able to look back on what we’ve been through,” said Ashley.

Harper is home now after a whirlwind eight days. And she’s officially cancer free.

“The future looks bright for Harper. She will have to undergo scans regularly for the next three years, but we are hopeful based on the biology of her neuroblastoma that the cancer will not come back.” said Meaghan Granger, M.D., director of the Neuroblastoma and Stem Cell Transplant program at Cook Children’s.

Dr. Granger describes Harper’s case as an excellent example of primary care from the Keller-based pediatricians who pinpointed what can be a common symptom in a newborn as abnormal. She also says this is an exemplary example of the smooth and efficient communication that occurs in an integrated medical system like Cook Children’s.

“The parents called their pediatrician with the symptoms of projectile vomiting and had an ultrasound done within 24 hours. Then, they were able to see an oncologist and had surgery within a day. All of the patient’s history, exam and imaging were immediately visible through an integrated EMR which also saved time.”

Fortunately, Harper's tumor was in a location that allowed it to be completely removed without further treatment.

“We’re thankful for the experience we had and it really opened our eyes to what a lot of kids go through,” said Ashley. “Because of this, we now want to be involved in the fight against neuroblastoma and do what we can to help families fighting this disease.”
Comments 1 - 3 (3)
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This was an amazing story. God is so good.
Jacob Reding
I've known both Josh and Ashley as we all went to college together. What a shocking and amazing story! Thanks Cook Children's for taking good care of my friends. Josh and Ashley, love you both and praying for your family! I wanna see little Harper soon!!!
Matt Terrell
This story really hits home for me and my family. I too have a very similar story. My daughter Carson Rae Terrell was diagnosed at 3 months old with cancer "small round blue cell tumor" we spent 9 months at Cooks Children's. Her cancer was in her blood, bone marrow, brain, and liver. At 3 months old Carson had a tumor the size of a softball on her left ovary and a tumor the size of a silver dollar on her left breast. After countless operations and rounds of chemo, Cooks oncologist Dr. Heym decided a stem cell transplant was the best route. After 3 rounds of stem cells Carson was completely cancer free. Very long story short but we spent 9 long months at Cooks and spent many holidays there including New Years. We were in isolation in the transplant unit that New Years but I thought what better time and proposed to my beautiful wife Callie Terrell that New Years at midnight in our daughters hospital room! Carson is now 8 years old and is a healthy cancer free kid and big sister.