acute myeloid leukemia
Our son Emmanuel “Manny” Williams, though born with special needs (Down Syndrome), was and is your typical little boy. However, up until the time he turned 18 months old, we had no idea just how “special” he was. See, on July 28th of 2011, Manny was diagnosed with AML. This news shook our family to its core and would undoubtedly be our greatest test and blessing at the same time. How so, allow us to share Manny’s amazing journey of strength as he battled the deadly AML. Manny, as I stated earlier, was your typical boy full of life and adventure, always keeping us on our toes. He climbed onto everything, jumped from everywhere, and wrestled constantly with his older brothers. So naturally, we did not think anything out of the ordinary when bruises began showing up on his little body. However, we began noticing them everywhere, even on his forehead. We monitored him closely and began realizing that these bruises were anything but ordinary. With our concern growing, we decided to take him to his pediatrician to hopefully get an idea of what was going on with our little boy. After a series of tests, we were still left without an explanation for the random bruises. We were not satisfied and continued to ask for answers because we knew that’s something was off. Over time, Manny’s immune system weakened resulting in constant illness of some kind.
This caused us to persist even more in our search for answers. After several months of testing and waiting we were given the devastating news that our son has cancer. Our hearts sank within us, and our minds raced as we processed what this could mean for our son and our family. However, instead of sitting in a place of grief and despair, we immediately shifted into “go-mode” ready to do whatever we had to do to help our son defeat this awful illness. We were fortunate to have a team of amazing doctors and healthcare workers who came up with an experimental treatment plan for Manny that would last several months and would be an in-patient. We made major life changes in a matter of weeks to help us navigate through the journey we were about to face. We moved across town so that we can be near the Med Center where Manny would be receiving his treatments for the next 6-7 months. The treatment began immediately, and the journey began.
Day after day, week after week, and month after month, Manny fought like a true warrior as he received round after round of chemotherapy. We witnessed the greatest display of strength we had ever seen as this now 2-year-old child fought cancer with a smile on his face. We as parents was left feeling helpless knowing that there was little that we could do to help our son survive this.
There were days when I would just cry knowing that I could do nothing like his father to help heal him. However, Manny stood tall, looked cancer in the face, and declared, “DON’T WORRY Y’ALL, I GOT THIS!” Seeing his strength gave us hope amid uncertainty. Seeing his smile, gave us joy amid the despair. Seeing him spread love to others inspired us to do the same to other families battling various forms of cancer. Manny essentially became a local celebrity on the 9th floor of TX Children’s Hospital. From the physicians to the cleaning staff, everyone knew of and had been touched by Manny in some way. It was amazing to watch people we have never met take such care of and be so impacted by our son. We received so much support on our journey.
Several organizations offered different kinds of assistance during our time in the hospital and many still offer help years thereafter. I know for a certainty that we could not have made it through without the support and encouragement from friends, family, and the many organizations that came to our aid. After several rounds of aggressive chemotherapy, Manny has now been in remission for over 9 years. He continues to inspire nearly everyone he meets giving out big warm hugs at no charge. He is without a doubt my real-life superhero.