Written by Riley’s parents, Dr.’s Kirk and Kelly Philpot
Riley was diagnosed with a Wilm’s Tumor in May 2006. Initial treatment required surgery to remove her right kidney and 6 months of outpatient chemotherapy. A routine follow up confirmed relapse of her cancer with metastasis to her lungs June 2007. Riley was treated for her cancer with chemotherapy, radiation, surgeries and stem cell transplants. In August 2010, Riley faced the fourth relapse of her cancer.
Despite us both being physicians, Riley’s diagnosis of cancer threw us into a world of treatment that was difficult to navigate. Our medical experience is a blessing that helped us on this journey and also allowed us to see potential ways to help other families in similar situations.
Working, caring for a child with a serious illness and taking care of 3 additional children can be overwhelming. Not until Riley’s relapse did we allow others to significantly help us along this journey. Facing almost 2 years of chemotherapy, we knew we could not do it alone. We asked friends, family and our church for help. The outpouring of support for Riley and our family has been overwhelming. Riley’s amazing fight has brought support from numerous individuals and churches throughout Greenville and the surrounding areas. So many people have stepped across typical boundaries of faith, race and financial backgrounds to offer their prayers and support. This support allows us to maintain a healthy home environment which has been conducive to our family’s well-being as well as Riley’s recovery. A friend coordinates our volunteers to help in times of need. Some examples include volunteers to stay with Riley at the hospital when we must be away, dinners for the family during her hospitalizations, babysitting the children at home to allow us both to be at the hospital if needed, and numerous other services provided by so many.
Our supporters have become “Riley’s Army” to us, and we have found so many people who are wanting to help in the community but haven’t known where to direct their efforts. We have gotten so much from our volunteers, yet the volunteers are so thankful for an opportunity to help and want to do more. We know we will not need this support from our volunteers someday, but we don’t want this amazing group to disappear when our need for this level of support ends.
Riley and her amazing spirit have brought people together to care for those in need in our community. We do not feel this effort should end and want to create a lasting force to care for other children and families in similar situations. Each families needs will be unique but the diverse group of volunteers will allow us to meet the service needs of these families struggling to survive on this journey.
“Riley’s Army” will continue to grow as each additional family in need will bring additional volunteers motivated to help for the well being of children.