AURORA, Colo. (CBS) – For children, the holidays usually mean a time surrounded by the love of a family, but for the youngest cancer patients the holidays can be a season spent surrounded by doctors, treatment and fear.
That’s the story for the Flagler family. Doctors diagnosed Peyton with leukemia just before her third birthday. It’s a day etched on her parents’ memory.
“It was the worst thing in the world. She had been sick like with a cold,” mom Renae shares. “She would get a little bit better and a couple days later she would be sick again, like it was coming back.
“Seven days later, after being in the ICU for children in Billings, Mont., they did a bone marrow biopsy and it was diagnosed as leukemia.”
While it might have seemed like a death sentence to some families, the Flaglers knew better. Renae is a leukemia survivor.
But still it is a burden as the family is at now 4-year-old Peyton’s side at Children’s Hospital in Aurora. And as the holidays approached the family found hope from an unexpected source — the men and women in blue.
“Cops Fighting Cancer was established basically not only emotionally but financially support families throughout the state,” is how founder Jim Seneca explains the organization.
The Aurora officer started the charity 10 years ago. Now there are 30 agencies involved.
Cancer hits close to home for Seneca. He was diagnosed with cancer when he was 26. Now, 25 years later, he’s cancer-free.
“It was horrific,” he said. “I mean, my chances of survival were 30 percent at the time. We’re dealing with a lot of uncertainty. Horrific episodes of vomiting. When I was originally diagnosed I was 215 to 200 pounds. I got as low as 165 pounds.”
Seneca wanted to us his story to offer hope and joy to children fighting cancer. He turned to his fellow law enforcement officers for help in gathering holiday gifts.
“It puts things into perspective,” Seneca said. “I really don’t think about myself. Actually I think about the children. I think about my children. I think about how terrible it must be as a parent to deal with a situation like this.”
Those gifts certainly put a smile on Peyton’s face, but there’s really nothing like the seeing the officers, and it’s easy for her to explain why.
“They help children get better,” she said. “That’s why!”
For Seneca, he’ll keep supporting these kids year-round for as long as it takes.
“When they find a cure for cancer,” Seneca said, “that’s when I stop.”