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17 February 2019

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2/17/19 #SameHere Hero: Neal Cohen And Family

Today’s #SameHere🤙 Heroes: my buddy Neal his amazing wife Tracee, & their two beautiful children.

 

Neal went to a neighboring HS growing up, but my friendship w him was greater solidified when a best friend my home town became close w him in college up at Buffalo.

 

Neal & his wife Tracee have always been down-to-earth, heart-felt people, but their strength, courage, & openness now, in the face of challenges w their 4 & 1/2 yr old son, Austin’s physical health has been remarkable. Austin, they just found out, is battling ALL (children’s Leukemia).  Since we started this platform, I’ve rarely solicited friends to share their challenges, unless I’ve known they are strong, resilient, can act as a model for others facing something similar, & might actually heal even more putting their own stuff out there to help others.

 

In Neal & Tracee, you have models for how parents (or really anyone), can best handle the mental rigors of finding out a young loved one is facing a scary physical illness. Please read Neal’s words closely – for me in particular, what stands out, is how he appreciates ALL the support, but the positive “you got this” pick-me-ups have gone way further than the “I’m so sorry” comments. I truly believe Austin (the “super hero” you will hear about below) & his family, who JUST recently found out about the ALL, can & will act as heroes for those out there facing similar battles. Neal & fam, from me personally, & our community, “you got this.”

 

“My wife & I learned 3 wks ago that our son has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

 

Initially we were in complete shock & disbelief that something like this could happen to our sweet little 4 1/2 yr old son.   The level of anxiety awaiting results of tests & scans & more tests was something words can’t describe.  This was easily the hardest feelings we have had to cope w in our lives when doctors confirmed their initial suspicion that he had Leukemia.  While hearing from doctors that there is a 95-100% cure rate helps, it still isn’t enough for you to eliminate for your thoughts your child has Cancer.  Sleeping at first was difficult, especially either being in a hospital room or in a house w only our daughter, & not our son.  Trying to hold back our tears in front of our son in his worst hours of pain wasn’t possible, no matter how hard we tried.

 

Working in tandem w my wife to assure we were each OK & stayed strong was very important, even little things like letting one of us just take a walk outside for fresh air, leaving the hospital room did wonders for us…or going down to the lobby to speak to a friend on the phone about what was going on.  While the calls for those discussions were very hard to make to let life-long friends know what we were going through, the conversations helped so much in so many ways.   Having family & friends visit us in the hospital was probably the best medicine for not only my wife & I but our son as well.

 

Every once in a while just taking a deep breath when stressed seemed to help while meditation assisted when I could find the time but it’s something I regret not doing more of as this has unfolded.

 

We initially told close family & friends before our story hit social media, beginning w our nephew doing a fundraiser to raise money for pediatric cancer research in honor of his little cousin.  My sister-in law posted the story how our nephew was doing this for his little cousin.  The response we saw was amazing, raising over $5,000 in less than 24 hours.  We are currently up to over $12,000 in less than a wk.

 

We recently posted pictures of orange bracelets (color of ribbon for leukemia, you can see in our #SameHere pic) which gathered more responses.  The bracelets say AUSTIN STRONG (with the ‘A’ being the font of the Avengers as our son loves super heroes) on the other side is a quote from super bowl MVP Julian Edeleman “tough times don’t last, tough people do”  which was made the night we learned of his diagnosis.
 

Overall the support from this was incredible & honestly overwhelming… hearing from former classmates, co-workers, family, friends…some of whom we haven’t seen in decades.  Most comments came w a positive tone to stay strong, saying we’ve got this, he’ll beat it etc…while some expressed sympathy citing they were sorry we had to deal with this. The ‘sympathetic’ comments while they are from the heart didn’t have the same impact on me as the more positive toned ones. We know this is not our fault & its not our son’s fault.  There isn’t anything for anyone to be sorry about.  But hearing from so many people w positive comments really has helped us stay strong over the first few wks of this 3 yr battle we’ll be going through together.

 

Overall the love & support we have received from friends both new & old, & family, has really been what’s helped us keep a positive mindset.  I’m not sure how we would have gotten through this all w/o their love & support.  I’ve told friends not to be shy about reaching out as some felt they would be ‘bothering’ me by calling or texting… but i’ve explained that a text or a call does wonders for my morale.  You appreciate seeing how many people truly care about you & your family during a tough time like we are currently going through.”

 

For more info on Austin’s cousin’s fundraiser, copy and paste this into your browser: https://www.stbaldricks.org/participants/mypage/1005476/2019?fbclid=IwAR3l0KrMo8Df47DK0ftfE9nRd5mFmZOTTyPsKPdhUq0zfe95Bd25p-5VURw