Most people budget for things — gas, groceries and even a vacation.
“But nobody budgets for cancer,” said 29-year-old Jennifer Eaton of Elbert. “However, we do now.”
Eaton's 4-year-old daughter, Lillie, was just diagnosed with stage 3, high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia less than a month ago, and she said medical bills have already surpassed the $20,000 mark. In spite of everything, she remains optimistic.
“We're grateful Lillie was diagnosed with this kind of leukemia,” said Eaton. “Of all the different kinds, this one has a very high survival rate.”
Lillie, who also suffers from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, is far more interested in crafts and the new litter of kittens in her living room than she is in being sick, but she still has a challenging road ahead of her.
She receives chemotherapy weekly and her comprehensive course of treatment will extend for another two and a half years.
“So by her seventh birthday, we should be done with all of this,” Eaton said.
While the family has medical insurance, many expenses may not be covered.
The small prairie town of 250 has set up a special auction and dinner to raise funds to help not only with medical expenses, but with transportation costs to and from Children's Hospital Colorado in Aurora where Lillie receives her treatments.
Amy Phillips, one of the event organizers, said she did not know the family very well, but had heard about Lillie's condition.
“I sometimes work in the kitchen at school and had heard she had been diagnosed with leukemia,” said Phillips. “I've lost family members, myself, to leukemia and know what they are going though, and thought this is the best way we can help.”
“We are better givers than we are receivers,” said Eaton of the town's generosity. “We just don't know how to be receivers very well, but we'll certainly work on it.”
Phillips said the event is still in need of auction items. “We'll take just about anything,” she said.
As the holidays approach, Eaton said the tight-knit family atmosphere of Elbert is one of the things for which the family will truly be grateful this year.
“Truly, we are fortunate in many ways to be here,” she said.
Lillie's outlook is positive, and the concentration of cancer cells in her body is far less than before her first treatments.
“I just feel like we don't know how to say `thank you,' but we're gonna give back someday, someday when Lillie's all better.”