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Beating Leukemia By Casey Ford It was a typical Saturday at the Running Spot. We were busy helping customer after customer. We did not expect this Saturday to leave a lasting mark on us. But that’s when little Eli Wilkening walked through the red door. Let me rephrase that, he ran through the red door! Following him were his mother, Allison, and his two-year old brother, Asher. We were immediately captivated by his charismatic and outgoing personality. In fact, everyone in the store, both employees and customers, had their attention directed towards his sweet round face and honey blond hair. It is hard not to when the boy has boundless energy and such a contagious laugh. It’s too bad you can’t press a button to hear it here! Your day would be made! Eli spoke to us with such passion and congeniality, as if he knew us for a long time, not as new acquaintances. It became apparent that Eli was no ordinary little boy. He informed us about his bike, his new red light-up helmet, and Mr. Sean Casey, a famous filmmaker who had a film showing at the Imax. Needless to say, Eli is a very smart boy with the most perfect grammar for a five year old. We noticed how close Asher was to Eli as he followed Eli around the entire store like a mini shadow. Asher, while trying to mimic his big brother’s every move, was just as entertaining. They are welcome whenever they come into the store. Asher, especially, likes to help with shoes and has been seen stomping around in bright red, men’s size 9 Nike Frees! There’s never a dull moment. The boys’ mother, Allison, is nothing less than extraordinary. Ann asked Allison about her training and if she had a race in mind. Allison, in fact, was preparing for the Marine Corps Marathon. This is not an easy race to get into, so we wondered how she was able to get an entry! She informed us that she had been training with Team in Training which, many of you know, benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Then we learned of her personal cause. She said she was running with TNT for Eli. “He’s my hero,” Allison said. Her child had leukemia. This amazing little boy has been in treatment for Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) since he was two years old. During a regular check up, his pediatrician thought he looked a bit pale and tested him for anemia. Soon after, they were called to get to an oncology unit immediately; unfortunately, the closest one was two hours away. At the time, Matt, Allison’s husband, a navy aviator, was

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teaching pilots at a base in Meridian, Mississippi. Because they needed to relocate to be closer to a hospital, Matt had to transfer to a different base. “The Navy was really good about this,” Allison said. Eventually, the family moved to Jacksonville, Florida. By this time, she was expecting the arrival of Asher. Since Eli was undergoing treatment and she was caring for a new baby, Allison and Matt had their hands full. Just when you think it cannot get any worse, Matt was diagnosed with cancer. However, after a successful surgery and regular checkups, he is doing very well. In fact, he is studying to obtain his doctorate. Once again, the Wilkenings needed to move, this time in order to get closer to the world renowned Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, where Eli could receive the best treatment available. Shortly thereafter, Matt enrolled into the medical school at the University of Cincinnati. As of August 19, Eli received his last chemotherapy treatment and is considered a survivor of leukemia! He beat it after three long and contentious years. In commemoration of this conquest, a victory race and celebration was held at the Cincinnati Zoo for Eli and his family. Of course, thanks to Eli, they had snakes to hold and face painting for the children. Eli, on his bike with red helmet flashing, zoomed rapidly past all of us runners. He rode into the sunset with his family, arm in arm, under a banner that read “No slack!” - referring to his beating the disease. Tears of happiness rolled down everyone’s cheeks as we watched their joined silhouettes beaming in the sunset. This was the definition of a picture perfect moment. You would never know that their young lives contained such a life-altering journey. Eli and Asher are the happiest of children, and Allison and Matt are the most upbeat parents. After multiple moves around the country, the birth of Asher, the passing of Allison’s aunt to brain cancer, ups and downs in treatments, Matt’s diagnosis of cancer, and the day to day obstacles in life, the Wilkenings have maintained during this erratic rollercoaster called Life, strength, optimism, faith and love. “The story has already been written,” Allison claimed. Allison continues to run and is dropping her minute per mile pace as she improves for her first marathon. She decided to run her hometown Kansas City Marathon. When Allison runs the course, amidst her cheering friends, family and Eli, she will feel an indescribable emotion. We typically feel bursts of exuberance as we run a marathon. Imagine the passion she will feel, all for her son. What an amazing reason to keep the miles coming! That finish line will be a prominent milestone in her life, as she’ll see Eli standing there, cheering her on with that infectious ear-to-ear smile. The Wilkening’s journey can be an inspiration to any trainee. Allison is a great mother to two special children, Eli and Asher. She is an affirmative inspiration

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11 NBovember Spotlite

11 NOVEMBER SPOTLITE  

11 NBovember Spotlite

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