The amazing story of Adalynn Hawkins
2-year-old little girl and her brave fight against cancer
In between medicine in the morning and chemotherapy at night, Adalynn Hawkins laughs and cries. She pesters her sister and giggles with her parents. A family's never been so happy to go through the "Terrible Twos" and watch the joyful life of a toddler.
Not that long ago, the Hawkins wondered if they would ever get home and return their life to some sort of normalcy. Even today, Melinda, Adalynn's mom, can’t believe how much time her child has spent fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
Through the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016, Melinda spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and even her 9-year wedding anniversary with her husband Eddie, with Adalynn at Cook Children’s. During the first few weeks of her stay, Melinda and Eddie didn’t leave the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Cook Children’s. Eventually, she and Eddie switched off every night.
Today, Adalynn is in remission. She's started her second round of maitnenance for her cancer. She receives chemo in once a month and steroids the first week of every month at the Grapevine Hematology and Oncology Center.
Melinda knows her child is doing well for all she's been through, but she welcomes prayers because the long road ahead for her little girl.
It's already been quite the journey.
"For the first time in a long time, I don't think about her cancer every second of every day," Melinda said. "Adalynn is doing great. She's almost back to her old self. She's smart as a whip and so aware of everything that's happened to her. The other day we were going to pick up her prescriptions up at the medical center and she told everyone she met, 'I have cancer and I have chemo.' She loves the Grapevine clinic. She knows the clinic. She says it's her clinic and the nurses are her friends."
Now, all that remains is a not too distant, horrible memory.
The night before Thanksgiving 2015, Melinda took Adalynn, 18 months old at the time, to Wichita Falls, Texas to spend the holiday with her family. Eddie flew to California to be with his folks.
Adalynn had been running a low grade fever for a couple of weeks that got worse as they drove into Wichita Falls from their home in Saginaw, Texas. As precaution, Melinda took Adalynn to the local urgent care.
By the time they reached the urgent care, Adalynn appeared extremely pale. She bypassed the Urgent Care and went to an ER. Even then, Melinda thought it was probably only an ear infection.
Blood work would show otherwise. Within 30 minutes, doctors came in to tell Melinda they feared her little girl had leukemia and they rushed Adalynn to Cook Children’s.
“I was in shock. I started crying. I scared Adalynn, but I couldn’t help it,” Melinda said. “My husband was in California during all this. I was scared, but we still didn’t realize how bad it actually was.”
Soon, Adalynn was in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). It was then that Kelly Vallance, M.D., a pediatric hematologist and oncologist began to care for not only Adalynn, but her mom too.
“She made it very clear that it wasn’t our fault,” Melinda said. “I loved that because we were like, ‘What did we do wrong?’ I’m sure every parent does that, but it was so good to hear those words from a doctor. I felt bad because we didn’t catch this soon enough. Dr. Vallance said, ‘You don’t know when this started. It could have been only two weeks ago for all we know.’”
In the early morning hours of Thanksgiving as Melinda talked to a nurse, Adalynn’s heart began to fail. The little girl was given CPR for 10 minutes before stabilizing her back.
“She looked like a lifeless baby doll,” Melinda said through sobs. “My sister heard me and she came running down the hall. She grabbed my face so I wouldn’t look in the room.”
Amazingly, after such a traumatic event, Adalynn tried to sit up in her hospital bed and even woke up during two shots of sedation.
That evening, Eddie arrived. Over about an eight hour time period, the Hawkins went from a normal Thanksgiving holiday to thinking their little girl may die.
Adalynn was diagnosed with ALL, Pre b leukemia, which doctors said was curable and treatable. Over the next few days things moved quickly:
- Adalynn stayed on a ventilator and began chemotherapy on Nov. 29, 2015. The next day, Adalynn opened her eyes and began to move more.
- On Dec. 1, she had surgery to put in a Mediport in her chest to receive the chemotherapy. She also received chemo in her spinal fluid while under.
- On Dec. 2, Adalynn was off the ventilator and doing well.
Imagine what your life would be like if this happened to your child and you get a sense of how strong Melinda and Eddie are, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t have their moments.
“It seems like every week my husband and I have a small little break down about how this happened,” Melinda said. “But then we look at her and see how far she’s come and we feel blessed.”
Over the next few months, Adalynn continued her chemo treatments. She has completed her second and third phase.
As she fought her cancer, Adalynn also faced new physical challenges. She had to learn to walk and talk again. She had vocal paralysis from the tubes that had been placed down her throat. But fortunately, everything came back naturally. Her mom said, “she didn’t miss a beat.”
On Dec. 28, Adalynn went into remission and she is showing great signs on her way to recovery. Her mom thanks God for her daughter’s miraculous recovery and looks at the medical care she’s received at Cook Children’s as a gift from heaven. In the same breath as talking about how ICU saved her daughter’s life, she talks about the amazing care the nurses have provided for Adalynn. She laughs when she remembers the nurses insisting on putting her daughter’s hair in pig tails after a bath.
“Cook Children’s has been so wonderful,” Melinda said. “I can’t believe the compassion they have and how amazing they are. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. The way Child Life was with her, even when she was kind of out of it, they would still come in and see her. Dr. Vallance was amazing. She was making her last rounds and heard the commotion that first night. She watched her get CPR and held my sister’s hand. She was right there when all that was happening. The entire Oncology Department and PICU hold a special place in our hearts.
Melinda said she and Eddie still have the occassional breakdown when thinking about everything that has happend to their daughter.
But they have made it this far, grateful for their good fortune and saddened for those who haven't been as blessed.
"We are starting September and there's so much awareness about kids with cancer and EraseKidsCancer," Melinda said. "I'm very happy that we are raising awareness, but it's also really hard."
At this point Melinda begins to cry. "We've met a lot of kids while at Cook Children's who aren't there any more. I thank God that Adalynn is Ok, but at the same time my heart breaks for those parents who have lost their children."
As she fights back her tears and says she will continue to pray, Adalynn makes a loud noise in the background. She's on the loose at her home. Those Terrible Twos are at again.
Melinda sighs as she gazes at her daughter.
“Someday she’s going to have an amazing story to tell,” she said.
She already does.