Three-year old Whitaker lives with his parents and his sister, who is his MVP. When Whit was 13-months-old, he was diagnosed with Stage IV, high-risk Neuroblastoma, and has been battling ever since, accumulating almost 200 nights in hospitals/treatment centers in five states.
His mother quit her job and now considers herself a “stay-at-home nurse.” Whit’s father takes time from his job to help care for Whitaker and his sister, but his vacation, sick time, and FMLA ran out, so he relies on coworkers’ donating leave to him. Dad also quit his weekend job.
While the family was able to utilize donated hotel points to offset some of these costs, out-of-pocket expenses, including meals and parking, created additional financial stress. Their social worker, recognizes that this family has a long treatment road ahead of them, and works with them to obtain financial assistance as appropriate. JUST TRYAN IT has helped them with basic household bills.
Whitaker and his family attended the 2017 and 2018 (and soon 2019!) JUST TRYAN IT Alexandria race. His eight-year-old sister was thrilled to hand out medals at the finish line with her brother, who helped her.
Whitaker’s frontline treatment is finished, and yet one trouble spot remains in his skull, but it is stable and scans every three months show it diminishing a little each time. They do not know what the future holds, living life never looking more than three months ahead, but are grateful for each day they spend as a family.
“In the last year, Whitaker has experienced life as normal as possible for a child in his position. Most , he was fitted for hearing aids–loss of hearing being a side effect of chemo–and they have improved his (and everyone else’s) quality of life. He attended a developmental Pre-K program three times a week to assist him with learning normal social interaction and to work on his speech/hearing. Between the hearing aids and exposure to normal peer interaction, his frustration levels decreased dramatically. Most importantly, he made some friends his own age!
“Despite what he has endured, Whit is becoming a normal 3-4 year old. He has scabby knees, popsicle juice on his shirts, is always talking about Toy Story or Transformers, and loves to “SUUUURPRISSSE” people whenever possible.
“This summer, Whit just wants to keep up with his big sister, Lakeland. She got braces recently, so Whit refuses to eat corn-on-the-cob, “because I have braces too.” She is a natural swimmer, and Whit will jump right in after her, even in the deep end; no fear or hesitation. Sissy got a bike for her Bday, and runs up and down the street after her, helmet on just like his hero.
“We are a little more relaxed now, and stay focused on the future and enjoying each day we have together. All of the family is so grateful for the endless support and boundless compassion shown to them over the past 30 months that they strive to Pay it Forward whenever possible.
“P.S. — LL is excited that she can ride a bike so she can participate in the JTI Alex race.”
Update from mom March 2022
Whitaker is thriving in kindergarten. He and his family moved from Alexandria, Virginia to Grand Rapids, Michigan in the summer of 2021 and he loves the Big Lake and the many days, weeks and months of snow! His favorite person is still his sissy. Whitaker has been healthy and continues to reach his milestones. He has some memories of his time in treatment, but those days are well behind him and he has adjusted to “regular life” with ease. We will continue to remind him of the bright parts of the world, and how much he is loved and supported by this community.
January 2023 Update
“Whitaker is a healthy 1st grader. He loves Pokemon, Legos, Star Wars, and playing, but most of his joy and love is saved for his older sister, Lakeland. He wears hearing aids resulting form some chemo, and is fascinated with his scars.”