Hope Carolyne Browning was born on October 7th, 1997 in Fort Worth, Texas. She is the second daughter of Duke and Sharolyn Browning. Her older sister, Navy, was almost three when she was born. She was a wonderful baby that loved to be held and rocked.
By age two, Hope was having a great life. She was an active and loving child with a beautiful smile that forced you to smile back. Hope loved animals, swinging, and her big sister "Nany" (pronounced like Navy, but with an "n" instead of a "v"). Hope could say "Navy", but never, ever chose to call her that. She was starting to get some of the stubborn cockiness that comes with being two and feeling somewhat independent from mom and dad. Hope was smart, creative and gaining self-confidence everyday.
The picture on the left was taken in early March of 2000 when Hope was almost 2 1/2.
In mid-April of 2000, the week before Easter, Hope was not feeling well. She was unusually tired, was not eating much, and threw up a couple of times over a few days. We canceled a family trip, and scheduled an appointment with the pediatrician for the following Tuesday. In the doctor's office, Hope was a bundle of energy (much to her mom's distress -- "no, really, she's been very lethargic"). The doctor ordered some tests, including a blood test, "just to rule anything out". When the nurse came back looking ashen to draw blood a second time, claiming "something went wrong with the first one", Sharolyn knew something was terribly wrong. After a few minutes, the doctor returned and said "I hope I'm wrong, and please forgive me if I am, but I think Hope has leukemia".
I got the news a short time later. I was just about to go on a mountain bike ride when my mobile phone rang. In a tone of voice that a parent never wants to hear from their spouse, my wife told me "I need to meet you NOW. Where are you at?" At a McDonald's that will forever be "the place," my wife told me the news that they think my baby girl has cancer.
From that moment on, we felt like we were caught up in a tornado. The world was spinning, and there was no way to stop it. I felt nauseous and terrified. We were to immediately go to a "hemotologist" for verification - we were still hoping that this was a big mistake, that the hemotologist would clear everything up. We arrived at the specified office and the sign outside the door said "Pediatric Oncology/Hemotology". A thought raced through my mind that, "uh oh, those two things go together -- the gap between us and cancer is closing". Through the doors, we were introduced to the incredible staff (Dr. Don Wells, Erin, Kristi, and Leonard) that unknown to us then, would be with us throughout the intense and emotional journey we had unwillingly embarked on. Despite the warm greetings and optimistic attitudes, we were offered no inkling of a possibility that the diagnosis was wrong. This was it. Hope had cancer. next>>