Sometimes wishes really do come true.
Summer Atkins was nearly 3 years old when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia May 6, 2010. She finished chemotherapy treatment July 15, 2012, and nearly seven months later, she got the surprise of a lifetime.
Summer’s mother, Laura Atkins, explained the family’s dog, Daisy, passed away in September 2011. Laura Atkins and her husband Michael, who have lived in the Cambridge area since 2000, had gotten Daisy before their children were born, so their children hadn’t experienced life without a dog.
One of Summer’s nurses referred her to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Minnesota, which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.
Laura Atkins said, during a discussion with Make-A-Wish, Summer mentioned she really wanted a black female dog which she would name “Rosie.”
“On Dec. 8, 2012, her ‘wish granters’ wanted to surprise her,” Laura Atkins explained. “So we told the kids we were going to their grandma’s work party. We just made up a story to throw her off the puppy trail. When we arrived, Summer was shocked to see her friends from Make-A-Wish.”
On Friday, May 24, East Central Veterinarians and the Cambridge Kennel Club provided the funding to get Rosie spayed. Eileen Bowen, with the Cambridge Kennel Club, explained the Club continuously helps local community organizations and other community members with different projects.
“Thank you for your generosity and thoughtfulness,” Laura Atkins wished to relay to Make-A-Wish, East Central Veterinarians and the Cambridge Kennel Club. “It means a lot to us. The kids love Rosie and snuggle with her. They love to run and play with her. Rosie thinks she’s a lap dog. Our oldest says regularly, ‘I love having a dog in the house again,’ and the kids want to bring her everywhere we go.”
Even though Summer has finished chemo, she still goes monthly for checkups and will go bimonthly next year.
“Summer is serious, super smart,” Laura Atkins said. “She has a dry sense of humor, that we see at home because she’s kind of quiet. She refused to speak to her doctors and nurses during treatment, but now she talks to them. She’s funny, gentle and sweet. For fun, she loves to cook with me or in her play kitchen. She loves to bike. She loves to play with her siblings. She likes to fish. And she wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up. She likes to help her dad with yard work and around the house.”
Laura explained Summer’s symptoms prior to her diagnosis were a fever and leg pain, and they brought her to the doctor because they thought maybe she was having “growing pains.” However, test results showed her blood counts were “off,” and eventually Summer was diagnosed with leukemia.
“Summer tolerated treatment well,” Laura Atkins said. “She developed a blood clot, which is not too unusual from this treatment, which caused a seizure. Sometimes I wonder how this has affected her personality, but we’ll never know. The first six months were the most intense and difficult. After the first six months, the next one and a half years of treatment were ‘easy.’ Summer is a tough cookie, as her dad calls her. She never complained about this. She was never too shy to go out in public (she couldn’t always leave the house, due to poor immunity) without any hair. Mike always said she was bald and beautiful. Since those bald days, she loves her hair super short or a pixie cut.”
The Atkins family relies on support of family and friends to get them through the tough times.
“We always said, ‘things could be worse,’ and say Jesus ‘carried’ us through this,” Laura Atkins said. “And he blessed us immeasurably with the peace, comfort, and rest, only he can give. The possibility of relapse of the cancer is always there, but we can’t sit and think about that. We also have friends, relatives and neighbors who were praying, helping and there for us. Our neighbors and church brought us meals for the first six months of treatment. Thank you so much. That meant so much.”
Laura said the diagnosis has led to a stronger family and relationship with Christ.
“This crisis has brought our family closer together and closer to Christ, which was one of our prayers from the beginning,” Laura Atkins said. “Summer’s siblings were so great through this, too. They had to deal with this from a different perspective. They could have pouted and whined about Summer getting so much attention, but they chose to be empathetic and nurturing and loving. They helped take care of her. They were a huge, huge part of her well-being and thriving through this. They kept her life somewhat normal.”
Laura said the family has always stayed positive when thinking back to the initial diagnosis in May 2010.
“Our initial reaction was to get her to the hospital quickly and to find out what needed to be done to help her and figure things out from there,” Laura Atkins said. “I thought we would be living at the hospital for months, and things got a little better when we were told we could take her home in a week. I remember all through her being in treatment, just looking at her and sometimes my breath would be taken away thinking of what she was going through. It also seemed so surreal. We are so glad this is in the past.”