Deaver toddler begins battle with leukemia

At first glance nothing seems amiss with 3-year-old Lily Phillips as she chases her little brother around the room, both squealing with delight during an afternoon game of chase. Yet only the day before, Lily was being poked and prodded at one of her many medical appointments at a pediatric oncologist’s office in Billings.

Lily was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) in August of this year. According to the American Cancer Society, ALL accounts for around three out of four leukemias diagnosed in children and teens. It is most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 2 and 4.

The disease can affect the blood, bone marrow and white blood cells that normally fight infection. According to her mother Chelsie, the doctor who diagnosed Lily’s disease said children with her particular genetic markers have a 90 percent recovery rate with proper treatment.

Lily Phillips
Lily Phillips

So far Lily has embarked on a road to recovery that includes being transported by air to a special hospital in Colorado, numerous chemotherapy treatments and at least 10-12 blood and platelet transfusions. As the word “acute” implies, her cancer is a very fast growing type and though diagnosed only a few months ago, it has progressed to the stage where already more than 80 percent of her bone marrow has been invaded by leukemia cells.

“She knows her blood is sick; she is aware of the fact that she has a port (a tube that goes into a vein in the chest used to import medication), but that’s about it,” said Chelsie. “She’s really too young to understand how sick she is.”

Chelsie, currently a stay-at-home mom, said Leukemia was the last word she expected to hear when she took her daughter to the doctor after noticing the usually very active toddler seemed pale and less active than usual. She also had a fever and complained of a sore throat. Thinking it was strep throat, Mom took her to North Big Horn Hospital Clinic, where a very observant doctor ordered tests that confirmed his suspicions.

The doctor quickly referred Lily to a pediatric oncologist in Billings, who ran more tests and had the mother and child immediately transported by air to a special care unit at Children’s Hospital in Denver specializing in children’s blood diseases, where the diagnosis was also confirmed and radical chemotherapy treatments began immediately thereafter. Those treatments are expected to continue for at up to 2½ years.

In an effort to help the young family, which, in addition to mom Chelsie, includes dad Tyler and Lily’s 2-year-old brother Bradly, a concerned group of friends, family and citizens of Deaver are holding a special fundraiser on Saturday, Nov. 7 at Deaver Town Hall beginning at 5 p.m.

The fundraiser includes a chili dinner, live dessert auction featuring homemade delights and a silent auction. According to one of the organizers Vicki Sorenson the auction includes a framed art print by artist Lauri Lee, a bronze sculpture by artist Michael Thomas donated by local caster Clay Ward, several beautiful gift baskets, quilts, a crocheted blanket, a set of Montana Silversmith jewelry and many more items. All of the food being served was donated, as well.

“People have been so generous,” said Sorenson. “As soon as we put up the flyers for the fundraisers we started to get calls.”

One of those calls was from a local bentonite plant donating $1,000. Another was from a woman in Powell who had a special quilt just for Lily.

In addition to the fundraiser, special “Love for Lily” accounts have been set up at the Bank of Lovell and Bank of Powell to facilitate donations to help with the family’s mounting medical and travel expenses.

“Tyler grew up here in Deaver; he graduated from Rocky Mountain High School,” said Sorenson. “It breaks your heart to see a little kid go through something like this and to see the family go through this. There’s not much else we can do to help. Helping out with the fundraiser is about all we can do.”

For more information contact Vana Camp 664-2218, Vicki Sorenson 664-2335 or Coleen Wagner at 664-2551.

By Patti Carpenter