While the bright lights and sparkle of the Akron Children’s Holiday Tree Festival may be virtual this year, the heart-warming stories that bring many of the trees to life are still very real, like Addison Tolley’s brave battle with cancer.
Bright-eyed and active Addison was home rehabbing a torn ligament in her knee when her parents noticed a decrease in her appetite and strength. Less than 24 hours after a checkup with her pediatrician, Dr. Cochran, Addison sat with her family in the Showers Family Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders receiving the news no family wants to hear. It’s cancer.
“We were scheduled to leave for Hilton Head, SC, the day after Addison’s diagnosis of B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia,” said Bethany Tolley, Addison’s mom. “Instead, we were scheduling Addison to have her port placed, so she could start chemo. She had a lot of setbacks due to her body’s reaction to the chemo and spent the next 76 days as an inpatient in the cancer unit and was in the PICU for a week.”
With news of a two-and-a-half year cancer treatment plan and the many setbacks it would bring, there was plenty the then 9-year-old could have been rightfully sad about. But, it was the thought of missing that family vacation that seemed to be one of toughest things for her to get passed.
“As parents we always tried to be upbeat and positive, but sometimes no matter what we did or said, Addison would get frustrated,” said Bethany. “So that’s when we started talking about taking a trip to the beach once her treatment is done. The talk of this trip always makes her happy. We know we are in the hardest season of life right now, but one day it will be over and we will get a much-needed break at the beach.”
Prior to Addison’s diagnosis, her family attended the Holiday Tree Festival each year and always talked about decorating a tree. With about a year left in Addison’s treatment, the family has heart-felt purpose for decorating a tree this year.
“We thought the tree would be a small way for us to give back to the hospital that has saved our daughter’s life,” said Bethany. “Dr. Pettee is her primary oncologist and we feel so blessed to have him in our corner. I don’t think there are adequate words to explain the extraordinary care Addison has received from all the doctors, nurses, techs, house keeping and secretaries in the cancer unit. We owe them so much for saving her life. Our hearts will always have love for them.”
To see Addison’s beach-themed tree up close, as well as dozens of other festive trees, wreaths and holiday gifts, visit the virtual Holiday Tree Festival starting Friday, Nov. 20, at 12 a.m. through Saturday, Nov. 21, at 11:59 p.m.