Faced with childhood cancer, family chooses joy over sadness

“Your child has cancer.” Those are words no parent ever wants to hear. It’s heartbreaking news that takes you on an emotional roller coaster, filled with difficult decisions. Emily and Jason Fox’s son Boone was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in May 2019 at the age of 2.

“Boone has Down syndrome, so we always knew there was an increased chance of cancer, but this is still a monster no parent ever wants to be faced with,” Emily said.

The Foxes have faced the diagnosis head-on. They chose not to let dread consume them, and instead to approach their cancer journey with joy. They made it their mission to spread as much happiness as possible while their son was in treatment.

“You are given a choice when you hear the heartbreaking news that your child has cancer — you can either be complacent and sad, or you can take the opportunity to continue to spread joy and help others who are in your situation,” Emily said.

Spreading joy is something that comes easily for the Foxes, and Boone clearly takes after them. Boone’s smile or laugh is enough to light up a room. Boone has finished his chemotherapy, but still enjoys spreading his joy to all the nurses and staff when he has follow-up visits with Norton Children’s Cancer Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine.

For a child who so easily connects with others, it can make the isolation his treatment required — to protect his compromised immune system — that much more difficult.

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“While having to be on the unit for a month straight at a time for treatment, the staff and nurses make the unit feel as much like home as possible for your family,” Emily said. “They become an extension of your family, and they’re the ones who have really made the difference.”

Nurses and doctors — including Esther E. Knapp, M.D., hematologist/oncologist with Norton Children’s Cancer Institute — help Boone and his parents confidently navigate their journey. Meanwhile, Boone keeps lifting everyone’s spirits, one smile at a time.

“We feel it’s our calling,” Emily said.

The Foxes intend to keep spreading happiness when and where they can, because nothing can dim Boone’s light — not even cancer. Just as the caring staff brought the Foxes into their family, they have become a part of the Fox family as well.

Norton Children's Cancer Institute-Novak Center

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