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, radiation, and 6 months of outpatient chemotherapy. A routine follow-up confirmed relapse of her cancer with metastasis to her lungs in June 2007. Riley was treated for her cancer with chemotherapy, radiation, surgeries, tandem stem cell transplant, and experimental immunotherapy. Unfortunately, she passed from her cancer in May of 2011.
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 was 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. After her first relapse, facing almost 2 years of chemotherapy, we knew we could not do it alone. We asked friends, family, our church, and the community for help. The outpouring of support for Riley and our family was overwhelming. Riley’s amazing fight brought support from numerous individuals and churches throughout Greenville and the surrounding areas. So many people stepped across typical boundaries of faith, race and financial backgrounds to offer their prayers and support. This support allowed us to maintain a healthy home environment that was conducive to our family’s well-being as well as Riley’s health while she was battling cancer. A friend coordinated our volunteers to help in times of need. Some examples included volunteers to stay with Riley at the hospital when we had to 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 became “Riley’s Army” to us, and we found so many people who wanted to help in the community but didn’t know where to direct their efforts. We received so much from our volunteers, yet the volunteers were so thankful for the opportunity to help and wanted to do more. Riley wanted every family battling pediatric cancer to have the support our family was given-so with that desire Riley’s Army was born. We knew we would not need the support of our “Riley’s Army” forever, but we didn’t want this amazing group to disappear, so Riley’s desire to share our “Riley’s Army” support with other families battling pediatric cancer was perfect.
Riley and her amazing spirit brought people together to care for those in need in our community. We do not feel this effort should end and we want to continue to foster a lasting force to care for other children and families in similar situations. Each family’s 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 brings additional volunteers motivated to help for the wellbeing of all children battling pediatric cancer.