Local community rallying around Hodgdon teen diagnosed with leukemia
But life sometimes doesn’t work out the way people want it to.
Woods, a 15-year-old sophomore at Hodgdon High School, is the daughter of Mike and Stephanie Harris and John Woods. Aside from the usual illnesses that a teenager gets, Woods appeared to be just like any other teen and was looking forward to the upcoming basketball season.
But when she could not seem to shake a lingering illness, Harris decided it was time to see a doctor.
“Addie has been sick for a couple weeks,” Harris said. “I took her to the Katahdin Valley Health Clinic on Nov. 14 and they did a strep test, which was negative, and gave her ear drops for an ear infection. The next day she started vomiting — not violently, but everything seemed to come back up. She started feeling better later that week, but was still tired. She went to school Friday, Nov. 20, then just rested all weekend. On Monday she went to school, but called me at lunchtime saying she didn’t feel well. I left school and took her back to KVHC clinic, certain she had mono.”
Some bloodwork was done and the family received the crushing news later that night.
“The doctor called me and asked me to come into her office to discuss the results of the blood work,” Harris recalled. “My heart sank, but then she said we would need to take Addie to Bangor that night. I knew then it was serious.”
Her son Blake drove Harris to Dr. Suzanne Nelson’s office where the family was told they thought it was leukemia. “She (Dr. Nelson) was so kind and cried along with me,” Harris said. “She calls regularly to check on Addie.”
On Nov. 23, Woods was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and has been at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor undergoing an intense 28-day motherapy treatment, according to her mother.
“The doctors say this is curable, but it will be about a two-and-a-half year process,” Harris said. “Our family is humbled and so grateful for the support and outpouring of love and prayers from our community. We actually have received well-wishes from as far away as Tokyo!”
According to the website www.cancer.gov, childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many immature lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell.) It is the most common type of cancer found in children.
The treatments will be a long, and sometimes painful process for the outgoing teenager. She has already had one bone marrow aspiration and lumbar puncture to see if the cancer cells have spread and a second has been scheduled for Dec. 23 to evaluate where the family is to go next as far as additional treatments.
“We really have no idea how long we will be here,” Harris said. “It’s day-by-day at this point. One doctor said she hopes to get us home for Christmas. I told her that is not our priority. We can celebrate Christmas any day. Addie’s health is our No. 1 concern.”
The Hodgdon girls’ basketball team has dedicated this season to Woods and is using the ALL designation for the team’s slogan of “ALL in for Addie.” The phrase is uttered before and after each game and the team also had T-shirts made that are worn during warm-ups.
The team was fortunate enough to be able to make a trip to Bangor to visit with Woods, but were unable to go into her room because of Woods’ weakened immune system.
“Those moments meant the world to us and seeing Addie’s smile and being together is what motivates us,” Hodgdon girls coach Taylor Quint said. “We left inspired by her but also heartbroken knowing the hard journey that she has ahead. The thing that has gotten us through these growth years has been the heart of our team becoming family. So when one of us is missing it hurts. There has been a lot of tears and moments that unexpectedly stop us up, but Addie is fighting hard and therefore we must too.”
Wanting to do something that would both keep Addie a part of the team and bring awareness to the fight that many people have to face, teammate Hailey Heath coined the catchphrase that the family has since adopted too. “She said, ‘Hey, we gotta go All in for Addie,’” Quint said. “We never thought we would have to deal with something like this, but the way that the team took the news, felt the pain, and then turned around and practiced with a new focus was a powerful thing to watch. I wish Addie could have seen and felt the love that was in the gym that day.”
Community support has been overwhelming, Stephanie Harris said. A “Go Fund Me” page ( https://www.gofundme.com/4pc54zfz) has been started to help the family with medical expenses and lodging so her mother can stay nearer to Addie. As of Tuesday morning, $2,000 has been donated.
“It has been incredible to see the community rally around her,” coach Quint said. “We have gotten calls from opposing team members, coaches, and ADs letting us know that they are thinking of her and praying. Addie’s presence on the hardwood is missed greatly and as a coach I am missing my coach on the floor. Addie is a student of the game and over the years has given of her time, knowledge, and passion to help coach the Jr. High teams, AYBL teams, and pee wee. She had been FaceTimed into our games as much as she has been able and we love having her a part in any way that we can.”
On Tuesday, Stephanie Harris said Addie was “doing well.” The doctors told her she would likely lose her hair, so before that happened Sarah Bouchard, a beautician from Houlton, gave Addie a spa day at EMMC’s Children’s Ward.
“Addie has always wanted to dye her hair red, but I was hesitant to allow it,” Harris said. “Sarah dyed it red yesterday! We figured now was the time to do something crazy. Sarah has planned to do Addie’s nails as well, but the coloring was pretty exhausting.
“Addie is truly is one of the kindest people I know,” he mother said. “She is so selfless. She actually said to me one day shortly after her diagnosis, ‘If this had to happen, I’m glad it was me and not Aidynn.’ She’s a little embarrassed by all the attention on her, but touched by all.”
Those who wish to send cards of support to Addie, may do so by mailing the Woods family at 278 Jackins Settlement Road, Hodgdon, ME 04730.