A Michigan couple has opened up about the horrifying ordeal they faced after two of their young children were diagnosed with cancer.
Emily and Ben Neumann’s first child, Tristan, was born in 2007. Younger brother Rowan was born later in 2010. “He was this happy smiley baby,” Emily said of Rowan, as reported by PEOPLE. “But before his second birthday [in March 2012], we noticed some distinct bruising on his body.”
After visiting the doctor and undergoing a blood test, the parents were told that Rowan had an elevated white blood cell count – a well-known symptom of blood cancer. He was required to go to Hurley’s Children Hospital in Flint for further testing.
“When I looked up what that could be I saw leukemia, but I thought that was wild and crazy,” Emily said. “But further tests confirmed that’s what it was.”
After treatment, Rowan went into remission for almost two years. The family had just purchased a new home that needed a complete renovation when, following routine checkup in April 2016, it was revealed that Rowan’s cancer had returned.
“We launched into the same mode again,” said Emily, 34, who was pregnant at the time. “With support from our family and with our faith, we pushed forward and reminded ourselves that we would get through this.”
After more arduous treatment, Rowan went into remission once again. Around the same time, Emily gave birth to her third child, Winnie, in November 2016. But it wasn’t long before the couple noticed there wasn’t something quite right with their precious baby. After months of gastrointestinal issues, doctors eventually discovered that the young girl had an incredibly oversized liver. At just 3 months, her liver was the same size as that of an adult male.
After bouncing from doctor to doctor, they eventually sat down with Rowan’s oncologist, who revealed the devastating news to the couple – Winnie also had cancer. Winnie had an aggressive form of cancer called Neuroblastoma, and there was worse news – the disease had spread to her liver and throughout her skeletal structure.
“It wasn’t possible for us to understand that two of our kids had cancer,” said Emily. “We couldn’t absorb what the doctor was telling us.”
“I remember wanting to throw the phone and scream,” she added. “Each diagnosis was harder to accept. This time it wasn’t as easy to look at our children and say that this was all going to be fine.”
Eventually, after several rounds of chemotherapy, doctors were able to remove Winnie’s tumor. But just a month later, Rowan began complaining of headaches – his cancer had returned yet again.
“Ben and I mourned that one hard,” she says. “We knew then that the only chance for him to survive was a bone marrow transplant.”
Incredibly, last November, the family located a donor and the transplant was a success. Today, both Rowan, now 7, and Winnie, now 16 months, are in remission, but Emily warns that the pair of them are still “not out of the woods yet.”
Astonishingly, despite the two children receiving a cancer diagnosis of their own, there is no genetic link between them that would put them at a greater risk of developing the disease.
“There is no inherited reason for Win or Row’s cancers. The odds of these two pediatric cancers occurring in siblings is astronomical, and we just happen to be that one in a million family,” the Neumann’s said in a statement posted to a YouCaring page that is raising money for the embattled family.
“We are solemnly aware that everyone has some struggle in life – it’s painful and unavoidable. And so many people face those struggles alone. But we are firmly supported by YOU; by our God, family, friends, and strangers who have saved us on countless occasions. And because of your support, we can say that cancer is something we live in spite of – not something we live in fear of.”
Our first Glimpse at the life-changing donation! You can still see the steam rolling off it.
“We’ve been through this a lot,” said Emily, who disclosed that her eldest child has undergone genetic testing and is healthy. “But we are still so hopeful.”
“She is so wonderful,” Emily said of Winnie, who is beginning to walk and talk. Following their horrific ordeal, the couple’s community pulled together and renovated their family home.
“It was such a gift,” said Emily. “Every single room was completely remodeled. I was so shocked.”
“It doesn’t feel real. That’s all I could keep thinking, is it feels like a dream,” Emily told ABC 12 after the incredible act of kindness. Elga Credit Union and a team of contractors combined forces to renovate the property.
Friendship made me know their story, their journey and the two kids with cancer and this beautiful big house they bought and couldn’t do anything with it as far as the remodel goes. The house had a lot of problems and I know that,” said Karen Church with Elga Credit Union.
“30 suppliers, contractors, companies that have been just so generous with what they’ve provided to make this happen – it’s incredible.”
“It’s gorgeous.The floors were all down to sub floor and everything was just liveable,” Neumann said. “We get to be a family again. We feel undeserving of what a gift this is.”
Check out a video of the family being shown around the house for the first time below:
It’s been a wild few weeks and we’re ready to show the Neumann’s their home!
Posted by Hope for Rowan on Saturday, February 24, 2018
And what about the uncertain future? Well, Emily has realized that when tough circumstances arise, you just have to take a day at a time and rely on each other for support. The whole experience has made her realize that every person has a story of brokenness, suffering or struggle.
“One thing that we’ve learned in and out of the hospital is that everyone has a story,” she explained. “Everyone has their burdens and some families out there have a lifelong struggle. But we’re lucky. We’re going to continue to get through this together.”