The Nemours Fund for Children’s Health Women’s Committee hosted a tea party July 28 at the Plantation at Ponte Vedra Beach in support of Nemours Children’s Specialty Care.
Since its founding in 1936, the Nemours Foundation, which encompasses the Nemours Fund, has been devoted to the restoration and improvement of the health of children, regardless of their financial status.
“Treating a child regardless of their ability to pay is paramount to Nemours’ mission,” said Lynn Erhard, wife of Dr. Michael J. Erhard, who is Nemours’ new chief medical officer for Florida. “In fact, Nemours provides over $20 million in uncompensated care annually.”
According to Lynn Erhard, Nemours employs more than 110 pediatric specialists and researchers across 19 specialty divisions, and has more than 100 clinical trials currently underway that are supported by external research funding.
“Whether a child is seen at the clinic by a specialist, or benefiting from important research, or just feeling safe and comfortable in the environment dedicated solely to children, Nemours is an invaluable part of our community,” she said.
For Jacksonville resident Casey Andeer, Erhard’s statement couldn’t be more true. Andeer shared her story with the attendees of the tea party, explaining that on Oct. 1, 2015, she brought her daughter Rue into the doctor’s office for a precautionary check-up, only to receive shocking and devastating news: Rue had acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
“That’s when our new normal began,” Andeer said. “When people used to say that phrase to me, ‘new normal,’ I hated it so much that if one more person said it to me, I would scream. But it was our new normal.”
A cancer of the blood and bone marrow, acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the most common childhood cancer. After receiving the diagnosis, the Andeer family was soon bombarded with medical knowledge about the disease.
“It’s terrifying,” Andeer said. “It’s overwhelming, and as a mom, through all that information, all I cared about was hearing that everything was going to be okay.”
Over the next 21 months, Rue would undergo various medical treatments, including chemotherapy and monthly steroid injections.
“At the beginning of the steroids, I was like, ‘I can’t do this,’” Andeer laughed. “If you see a toddler on steroids, you should run.”
According to Andeer, though, she owes the fact that she can laugh about the experience now to Nemours.
“I want you to know, it really is a personal experience with these people,” she said. “It’s not an easy place to be, but I know it has nothing to do with recognition. It’s all about helping kids who are going through a difficult time, like my Rue.”
Even as far as they’ve come, however, Andeer and her family still have their rough days.
“It’s very difficult to look back on the past 21 months of life,” she said. “Every day I wish I could pinch myself and wake up and my daughter would not have cancer, but that’s not reality. And then there’s that part where you really do feel so fortunate to live in an area where we have access to such amazing care.”
To enthusiastic applause, Andeer tearfully announced that Rue’s last day of chemotherapy will be Dec. 10.
“I know the relationships that we’ve formed over the last 21 months will far extend the 26 months of [Rue’s] treatment,” she said. “And from the bottom of my heart, I’d like to thank Nemours for taking such good care of my little buddy.”
The Nemours Foundation will host its fifth annual “An Evening of Promise” Friday, Aug. 25 at 7 p.m. The event, which will include music and refreshments, will be held at the Jacksonville Public Library at 303 North Laura St. All proceeds will go to Nemours Children’s Specialty Care. For additional information about the event, contact Kacie Shagnea at (904) 697-4415 or firstname.lastname@example.org.