Morris resident Nichole Brooks’ 4 year-old daughter, Aubrey, had been having random fevers and joint pain, and appeared anemic.
In January 2012, she was diagnosed with leukemia.
“It was devastating,” Nichole said. “You don’t ever expect to hear that.”
As Aubrey began a 2 1/2-year chemotherapy regimen, the Brookses received a care package from the Eberhard family, whom they knew through a mutual friend.
Fast forward to May 2013.
Six-year-old Luchiano Eberhard, also of Morris, had been getting fevers for five weeks, and soon received his own diagnosis of leukemia.
“Whenever you hear ‘pediatric cancer,’ you always think, ‘Oh, that’s somebody else,’” said his mom, Jamie Eberhard. “You never expect it to be in your house.”
The day Luchiano received his diagnosis, Nichole Brooks was at the hospital for a benefit. There, she and Jamie, met for the first time.
Though the disease has cast new struggles into the families’ lives, it has also strengthened their resolve to do their part to help others in their situation and prevent others from having to go through it.
“I’d always had a soft spot for [those dealing with pediatric cancer],” Nichole said. “Then it was us.”
This weekend, the two families will host a lemonade stand to benefit pediatric cancer research.
On Friday, they will hold one in front of E-Z Auto Sales in Joliet, featuring a bounce house, cookies and a free cookout. HART Animal rescue will also be present to adopt out dogs and cats.
Then, on Saturday, they will have a lemonade stand at the 3 French Hens French Country Market in Morris — for the second year in a row.
All money raised at the events will go to Cure It, a pediatric cancer foundation started by Aubrey and Luchiano’s doctor, Jason Canner. Cure It funds research into childhood cancer and provides assistance to families currently dealing with the disease.
“It’s a great cause,” Jamie Eberhard said.
Aubrey is nearing the end of her treatment, while Luchiano is at the beginning of his.
Jamie said her friendship with Nichole has helped, in part because Aubrey has already gone through much of what Luchiano is.
“It’s nice to have Nichole to talk to,” Jamie said.
Much of that experience has been difficult.
“The first year was really rough,” Nichole said. “It hurts to see because she was only 4 years old and couldn’t describe the pain.”
“That was really difficult.”
Because the disease lowers immunity, it has also prevented Aubrey from doing some normal childhood things where there is a risk of germs.
“She really got robbed out of a good year of her life, if not more,” Nichole said.
Similarly, Jamie said Luchiano had to miss the last two weeks of school and will spend at least the rest of 2013 homeschooling with the help of a tutor.
“It’s the little things you take for granted,” Jamie said.
Luchiano can’t go to a public pool, Walmart or give high-fives to strangers because of his low immunity.
But, Jamie said, Luchiano is “laid back” and doing a good job fighting his illness.
“He has the best personality,” Jamie said.
Childhood cancer is one of the most underfunded in research.
For these families, that underlies the importance of supporting the cause.
“Really, I think it’s just a passion beyond borders,” Nichole said. “We have such a tight knit community in Morris where we all support each other. But not all families at Cure It have that.”
“Really, it’s just to support the kids.”