A Family Bond of Cancer
A Lexington's family battle against childhood cancer and their ride to the Rose Parade
LEXINGTON SC (WOLO)– “Everything was perfect,” says Nick Gilger about his life in 2009. He and his wife Emily had gotten married a year earlier, and they were celebrating the birth of their first child, Edie. “…A new house, new family, new job,” Nick goes on to say. Edie, according to her mom was an “easy child,” explaining the she would sleep through the night, and was always happy.
When Edie was about five months old, however, all that changed. “She stopped sleeping..she would cry – like all the time,” says Emily.
After several trips to the pediatrician, the Gilgers got the news that no parent ever wants to hear. Their baby girl was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, which creates a series of tumors
“It was a punch in the gut that you never see coming,” says Nick.
The Gigers began treatment for Edie, which included trips to the intensive care unit for chemo treatments. As part of her treatment, Edie became part of an experimental program, including a drug called crizotinib.
The drug was made possible through large grants from Alex’s Lemonade Stand and Northwestern Insurance. It turned out that this new oral form of chemo was the “magic bullet” the Gilgers had prayed for.
After six grueling months, they got the news they had prayed for. The cancer was gone.
With that, the Gilgers went back to their “perfect life.” Although there were consistent checkups, the cancer became something of a distant memory, as they planned for the birth of their second child.
Several months before the birth of their son, Nick started recognizing something he had “only seen once before…” The lack of sleep, the pain in the back, making it hard for her to walk without assistance. It all seemed too familiar to Nick.
Nick turned to the same oncologist that had saved his little girl, and was given the news he didn’t want, but knew to be true.
Emily had also developed Neuroblastoma. The interesting thing this time, however, is that it is extremely rare to find it in children over ten years old.
This time around, however, the Gilgers were prepared. They knew what to expect, they knew who to turn to, and most importantly, they knew they could beat it. As a precaution, they delivered, via C-section, their son Kinsey several weeks early, to ensure that the cancer didn’t pass through the placenta to him, and treatments began.
“Here is my baby girl, that has lived in a hospital,” says Emily, “if she can do it, I can too.”
“It was like we had a silver bullet,” says Nick of his second experience with neuroblastoma, who owes everything to research and medicine. “It’s what saved Edie, and what will help Emily,” says Nick. Specifically, The Gilger’s credit research funding from Alex’s Lemonade Stand and Northwestern Mutual Insurance. Since 2012, Northwestern Mutual has provided over $12 million dollars for research, which translates into over 130,000 hours of research.
“It all comes down to research. It’s the reason I have a family,” he says.
The cancer is in remission for both of the Gilger ladies, but they haven’t forgotten their journey. They are still very active with Alex’s Lemonade Stand, and of course advocates and serve as an inspiration for other families who are fighting their own battles with childhood cancer. It’s the inspirational story that Northwestern Mutual wanted to share, when they invited the Gilgers to be a part of the 128th Rose Parade on the “Waves of Hope” float.