Just days after his second birthday, Evan was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. In a blog post by Evan’s mom, Mary, she wrote “Until Monday, October 18, 2010, I could have never imagined how drastically life could change in just one day.”
That day was the day Mary received the phone call asking them to leave immediately and bring Evan to the Children’s Hospital in New Orleans. In a period of five days, Evan endured numerous tests, x-rays, a bone marrow aspiration, a port implant, a spinal tap, chemo treatments, and lots and lots of lab work. After eleven days in the hospital, Evan was allowed to go home. The family then started traveling to New Orleans on a weekly basis, sometimes even a couple times a week. This would then go on for three and a half years.
Life changed drastically, as Mary put it, for their family. Families experience stress on jobs, families, relationships. Evan’s little brother Luke was just three months old when Evan was diagnosed with cancer. Luke went to the hospital and attended treatments with Evan. “He doesn’t know anything different,” said Mary and her husband, Adam, “That [hospitals and treatments] is all he’s known his whole life.” The impact of the cancer did not only resonate in Evan, it was a family battle. Two days after Evan was diagnosed, Mary and her husband Adam received some advice from a nurse that would stick with them through the entire fight against cancer, “Sometimes you just gotta take it hour by hour, even sometimes minute by minute, or second by second.” That is how their family would push through. The lived appointment to appointment, treatment to treatment, and they continued to move forward.
While in the hospital, Evan would watch train videos over and over, and over again. His mother said he watched the same train video at least thirty times during their initial hospital visit. That is where the train obsession began. Evan was even playing with trains when his Wish Granters from Make-A-Wish visited his house. It was obvious right off the bat what Evan would wish for. He wished to ride a steam engine train through the snow, not a diesel train, a real steam engine.
The wish experience began even before Evan and his family boarded a train. The airplane ride was a big adventure for a couple of young children who had never traveled on a plane. The world changed as they left humid Mississippi and arrived in a cold and snowy Durango. Adam and Mary were stunned as they realized that everything was taken care of for their trip. A rental car awaited them at the airport. They then arrived at the hotel where the train company had already decorated their room with train books and goodies for Evan.
The first day was filled with all things train related. Evan got all dressed up in his conductor outfit. The employees at Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad gave Evan and his family a tour of the entire steam engine train. They allowed Evan to sit up front in the train where he even was able to pull the whistle, a young boy’s dream! Evan was in total awe as the train engineers told him about every part of the train and how the train works.
After the tour of the train, the family took a six hour train ride around Colorado. The train staff treated the family like royalty. Evan’s parents exclaimed how they had never “seen him sit in one place and be so excited without getting into something in his entire life. He was glued to his seat and looking out the window the whole time.” As they were riding up and down the mountain, it started to snow. “I remember the moment it started snowing and watching him on the train. It is something I will never forget. It makes your heart so whole to see your child do exactly what he wanted to do; the one thing in the entire world that he wanted,” said Mary.
Evan’s Make-A-Wish trip gave him a break from treatment. He had already been through two years of treatment, but had several treatments ahead of him. During his trip, Evan did not have to think about doctors or medicine, his only focus was the train and the snow. “Getting to do his Make-A-Wish was a topic of conversation for a long time. He’s never going to forget it,” said Adam.