EX NATIONS are proud to present "More Than Four" a significant tune that was released in the spirit of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. The #MoreThanFour tune was written, performed, produced and engineered by EX NATIONS, mixed by Dan Mineart, and mastered by Michael Fossenkemper. This song has a personal meaning for the alt pop/indie clan from Richmond, Virginia. The group who personally wrote and recorded this song for Abby, a sweet and lovely 16-year old family friend who is currently battling Leukemia. The band had this to add:
"We strongly believe that music should be as much about helping people as it is about the music itself. 'More Than Four' is a song dedicated to all of the brave families who have battled or are still battling childhood and young adult cancer. The strength and courage they embrace every day and night is both inspiring and remarkable. We are privileged and honored to have been given a platform and an opportunity to try to help make a difference in one wonderful family's battle against cancer."
For more information on Abby as told by her family:
Abby is our beautiful 16 year old daughter. On February 28, 2014 we had a blood test taken to identify if her continued sickness was from mono. Little did we know that we would receive a call the next morning from her pediatrician that Abby had Leukemia. We had to cancel her birthday party that day and head right to UVA hospital in Charlottesville, VA. Abby was diagnosed with T cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia or for short T cell ALL. It is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. We are at UVA hospital in Charlottesville. She has an amazing team of pediatric oncologists on board taking us through this every step of the way. Abby's treatment will consist of a total of 2 1/2 years with travel down to UVA from Winchester, Va weekly. She has just started chemotherapy treatments.
On March 1, 2014 our whole life changed. Our daughter, Abby, was diagnosed with High Risk Tcell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia with central nervous system involvement (cancer cells were detected in her brain). At that point, we were bought into a whole other world. A world we didn't even realize existed.
Abby was sick for about 6 weeks before we received her diagnosis. We went back and forth to the doctors at least 5 times trying to figure out what was wrong. We received the call at 8:07 am on a Saturday morning. We had to report to the University of Virginia Children's Hospital immediately and start chemo right away. We packed and prepared for several weeks in the hospital and started our 2 1/2 hour drive that would become very familiar in the months ahead. Abby also had a midstinal mass in her chest full of cancer cells. Within 48 hours she was receiving her first chemo dose.
Abby went on to receive chemo and radiation to the brain every week until January of 2015. Many chemo treatments were several times a week, some were scheduled 4 to 5 days of inhospital stays, and many made her sick. Fevers, low blood counts, nausea, infections, vomitting, lightheadedness, dizziness, fatigue are all normal side effects of chemo. However, Abby has been special from the beginning and received almost every possible side effect and worse case scenario possible.
In May 2014, she received a chemo that put her into antiphylactic shock where her throat began to close up and she couldn't breathe. Since this chemo couldn't be given again, they switched to a different chemo called Asparaginase, that ended up causing acute pancreatitis. She was admitted to the PICU with the pancreatitis, went into stage 4 hypovolemic shock with a blood pressure of 40/20 mmHG, dropped 20 lbs down to 80 lbs (5'6" frame), was unable to walk, experienced neurotoxicity with seizure activity, pyschotic episodes and hallucinations from the pain medications, and was fed through an NG tube. She finally recovered from this chemo and ate her first food about 6 weeks later. By the last 2 weeks in June, she was feeling much better. In July she was started on another round of chemo called high dose methotrexate. This chemo sent her into kidney failure. They had to fly in a special enzme from Kentucky to break up the methotrexate within her body and hope that her kidneys regained function. She was supposed to receive four different dosages of this chemo on 4 different occasions, but she will never receive this again.
She hit what is called the maintenence phase in January of 2015 where chemo slows down and things are supposed to get "easier". But that didn't happen for Abby. She spent January and February of 2015 bedridden and in the hospital fighting 3 viruses and reoccurring pancreatitis. Her pancreas is now damaged and sensitive due to the chemo. She has had acute pancreatitis 5 times total. We never know when it will happen again. It comes on very suddenly and is extremely painful and requires immediate hospitalization.
Abby is still in treatment. Her treatment will continue for another 15 months. She takes oral chemo daily and weekly. She receives IV chemo monthly and she receives intrathecal chemo through her spine up to the brain monthly as well. These intrathecal chemos require sedation and are done through a spinal tap. She has received too many spinal taps to even count, close to about 30 platelet and blood transfusions and numerous other tests.
Living with cancer is extremely hard for anyone, but it's that much harder for a teenage girl. Losing your hair at that age is devastating and no one really knows how she feels except other teenage girls with cancer. She has missed her whole highschool experience so far. No matter how great her school is and how accommodating, no one really knows and understands. Once people get over the initial shock of the diagnosis, they move on. The shock wears off and they get on with their lives. We have lost friends, even best friends. Many people aren't able to deal with this magnitude of grief, so they just avoid you. But Abby can't get on with her life and neither can we. She fights hard every day. She still fights because chemo and radiation cause many late effects. School is much more difficult causing attention, word finding, sequencing, and retention difficulties. Chemo brain is real and is hard to overcome.
But....Abby is an overcomer. She is tough and she fights hard. Even when people don't understand, she trys to help them understand. She has become quite the advocate for childhood cancer. She has spoken at over 15 different events bringing awareness to kids fighting cancer. She is an amazing young girl. Mature beyond her peers, not because of choice but because of neccesity.
Abby's diagnosis of leukemia has changed our lives forever. We will never be the same. It is emotionally, financially and socially devastating. We will never recover from it, but instead we will be changed forever by it. Hopefully, for the good.
Childhood cancer is not really that rare. I thought it happened to kids far away in different states. I never imagined it could happen to a child right here and certainly not my own. 46 children are diagnosed with cancer every day and 7 of those children will die. It has a higher incidence than all diseases of children combined, including diabetes, cystic fibrosis, aids and heart defects. And our government in the richest nation in the world, only gives 4% of cancer funding to children. It is very sad and it needs to change. Abby plans to continue to be a voice for childhood cancer. Many little kids don't understand what's happening to them, but Abby is old enough to have lived through it and understands the magnitude and pain associated with this life threatening disease. She wants to continue to bring awareness even in the midst of her continued treatment.