Being diagnosed with cancer is hard enough, but receiving a diagnosis during COVID-19 is even more difficult.
Fortunately, an Oak Harbor boy has had his best friend by his side.
Lucas Hardin, 6, and his family received the news in March that he has B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The youngest of three children, Lucas enjoys outdoor adventures and playing video games with his best friend, Hudson Jay.
His diagnosis came at a hectic time. His mother, Erica Slane, explained that because Lucas doesn’t have a lot of white blood cells to fight off infection, keeping things clean during a global pandemic became paramount.
“When people bought out all the hand sanitizer and cleaning products, I did have to beg a Target employee to sell me two packages of Lysol wipes because of the situation,” Erica said.
The Ronald McDonald house near Seattle Children’s Hospital was closed due to the virus, so Erica and Lucas stayed in a hotel room that Erica regularly sanitized so it was a safe place for her son to be while he started chemotherapy treatment.
Despite the difficult circumstances, Lucas remained optimistic, surprising his doctors.
“They always say kids are so resilient and everything,” Erica said. “It made the emotional side of this easier to cope with because he’s such a positive kid.”
Erica said Lucas has maintained a sense of humor through the trying times, letting his goofy side run wild.
“He was calling us every day from the hospital to show us how chubby his cheeks were getting (from the steroids),” Courtney, Hudson’s mother, said.
But Lucas did worry about being away from Hudson, his next-door neighbor and longtime pal.
“That’s the only time he was sad through this whole thing, because he thought his best friend was going to get a new best friend,” Erica said with a laugh.
Courtney said both families made the decision not to separate the boys, who have been best friends for the past two years.
“They’re already so close all the time, so we didn’t really keep them separated from each other,” Courtney said.
Erica said Hudson, who is 5 years old, has been an extremely important source of support for her son during these uncertain times when they returned home from Seattle.
“It’s crazy how kids understand these things,” Erica said. “When Lucas is throwing up, Hudson just rubs his back.”
Courtney agreed. Even after learning about his cancer diagnosis, she said Hudson has treated Lucas the same.
“Which has probably been good for Lucas to have a relationship that’s normal and not tiptoeing around him,” she said.
The boys have had to cut back on their outdoor adventures because of the bacteria in dirt and pets have had to stay away, but Lucas hasn’t seemed too upset by the changes. Instead, the best friends have been spending a lot of time inside video chatting and playing video games.
Lucas has even dutifully kept up with completing his online schoolwork.
Lucas is in Bailey Sherman’s first grade class at Crescent Harbor Elementary School.
“The school has been so good about cheering him up,” Erica said.
Sherman asked her class to dress up in orange, the color for leukemia, and have their pictures taken while holding signs of encouragement. After receiving the photos, she compiled a scrapbook and made a blanket for Lucas.
“He’s just a very silly and outgoing, friendly student,” Sherman said about Lucas. “He makes everyone laugh and he’s really just a friend to everyone.”
Every Thursday, Lucas has been receiving chemotherapy treatment in his spinal cord at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
While Lucas has been doing well so far, he has a long road ahead of him. His treatment will continue for at least the next two years.
“The COVID-19 being in quarantine, it’s been a life change for all of us,” Erica said. “Kids with leukemia, they live in that quarantine for two years.”
She added that even with the chaoticness of the virus, it has been nice to hear that people are keeping her son in their thoughts and prayers. And with his best friend nearby, he won’t have to be alone.