What started as an accident at her preschool has led to multiple months of chemotherapy treatment for Gilbert 4-year-old Olivia Dodson, whose family has organized an event on Sept. 7 to raise funds for cancer treatment.
Olivia’s mom, Sarah, said her daughter’s bought with AML, or acute myeloid leukemia, began a few months ago when a classmate accidentally hit her in the face with a ball. The impact resulted in a sizable bruise, albeit one that took awhile to go away.
It was then that the family began to notice more and more bruises on Olivia in places like the upper arms where most kids wouldn’t get them. The family intended to take Olivia to the doctor after a spring trip to New York, but another bruise on the forearm — one Olivia couldn’t remember receiving — forced a trip to the doctor’s office and a diagnosis of AML on March 7.
“I don’t know what would have happened when we were in New York,” Sarah said.
According to the Mayo Clinic, those bruises are one of the symptoms of AML, which is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. It’s an aggressive form of cancer that forms quickly and is treatable with a series of four chemotherapy sessions within the span of a few months.
Unfortunately, the chemotherapy is potent and wipes out the immune system, and it requires hospital stays that can last weeks. Sarah said Olivia recently completed the fourth session, one that forced her to stay at Phoenix Children’s Hospital for six weeks.
“She’s having a hard time bouncing back from this one,” Sarah said.
Sarah said her daughter was a feisty and clever girl before the treatment started, but became much more introverted as the hospital stays lengthened and the treatment wore on. She has, however, recovered her spunk, and Sarah said her daughter remains a stubborn, caring child, albeit one who remains a bit shy around people.
“I describe her as an old soul to people,” she said.
Olivia’s father, Brett, said the family is also trying to recover a level of normalcy amid the anxiety that the problems could arise again. There are limitations because Olivia’s immune system is still out of whack, but he said the family now has more privacy and can spend more time together than it could during the treatment stage.
“It’s much easier to deal with now the treatments are done,” he said.
Although Olivia’s chemotherapy treatment is now complete, that doesn’t mean the hospital visits have stopped. She still goes in for blood work and other treatments approximately once a month, and the expenses to cover the treatment have continued to pile up. To help pay for the treatment, a few friends of the Dodsons volunteered to host a jazz-themed fundraiser on Sept. 7 at The Nash in Phoenix.
Dubbed “Jazzed for Olivia,” the event includes drinks, giveaways, raffle prizes and performances by jazz musician Pete Gitlin, who used to work with Sarah, and season 10 “American Idol” contestant Jacqueline Dunford. Proceeds from the event go to support Olivia’s continued treatment.
“I can’t believe how much people have done for us; it’s amazing,” Sarah said.
The Nash is located at 110 E. Roosevelt St. in Phoenix. Visit jazzedforolivia.com for more information.
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