Battling the Unknown
Two-year-old Adam started his fight on Christmas Eve of 2016. He was sick with what the doctors thought was a nasty virus. Having difficulty walking, his family made a trip to urgent care and then the ER to get IV fluids. Adam continued to struggle with the illness for nearly a month, with his family still thinking they were fighting a virus.
By January 20, his condition had deteriorated to the point that an after-hours nurse suggested the Brey family take Adam to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, located in Milwaukee. Eleven days of tests including blood work, CT scans and bone scans, and the diagnosis remained inconclusive. The findings pointed to either an oncology or rheumatology condition, but they were unable to pinpoint exactly what was making Adam so sick.
On February 3, over a month from the onset of symptoms, the family got the devastating news. Adam had Acute Myeloid Leukemia, an aggressive form of cancer that normally only impacts adults. With a diagnosis in hand, the Brey family and the medical staff at Children’s Hospital began their campaign to eradicate the disease.
The first of four rounds of in-patient chemotherapy treatments started on February 7th, with Adam and his parents spending an entire month at Children’s Hospital. In addition to their time at Children’s, the Brey family – specifically Greg’s wife Amanda – also spent time in the adjoining Froedtert Hospital welcoming the newest addition to the family, baby Lucy. Amanda, who was well into her third trimester when Adam was diagnosed, had a scheduled C-section on February 26th and spent the next several days as a patient herself, just two floors up from Adam’s room.
At the end of the first round to treatment, the family was given their first good news. Tests indicated that there were no leukemia cells in Adam’s blood. This meant he would not have to endure a bone marrow transplant. He also was able to complete his treatment a little closer to home at the Pediatric Oncology Unit of St. Vincent’s Hospital in Green Bay. This meant that Greg and Amanda could also be closer to their three other children.
An Army Stands Guard
In the thick of their cancer battle, the Brey family received encouragement and support from countless family and friends. They started a Facebook page “Stronger than Superman, Updates on Adam Brey,” as a way to keep people in the loop regarding Adam’s progress. One of the hashtags they used on the page was #AdamsArmy. And with that, Adam’s Army began to stand in the gap for the family and offer reinforcement for a little boy who was up against so much.
Page followers started sending in photographs with #AdamsArmy signs as a show of support. To date, Adam’s Army has made its way to every state in the US as well as 13 countries. Military personnel in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay sent in photographs. The Chicago police and fire departments are also part of the army ranks, as well as sport heroes including Milwaukee Brewer Keon Broxton, who wore an Adam’s Army wrist band in all his games. Keon even took the time to meet with Adam and present him with a game bat.
As the army grew, so did the photographs. A simple poster on Adam’s hospital wall showing the locations of his Army soon became too big and needed to be relocated to his grandparents’ home. The display now encompasses a world map, US map and the State of Wisconsin in order to keep track of everyone who is battling for him.
In addition to photographs and letters offering well wishes, Adam’s Army has also helped with several fundraisers to assist with Adam’s medical bills. Local businesses including the Sheboygan and Manitowoc area Pizza Ranch restaurants have arranged fundraising nights, and Adam’s Army members organized a brat fry this past July. Most recently, on October 21 a bowl-a-thon was held in his honor. Additionally, Adam’s Army t-shirts and wrist bands have been sold to help in the fight.
A New Outlook
Now three years old, Adam has been in remission since June 13. He grows stronger every day, but the battle is still not over. The first two years are the most precarious, as Acute Myeloid Leukemia can come back fast and furious.
Adam’s battle has given the Brey family new perspective. They have learned to take things day-by-day, hour-by-hour and sometimes minute-by-minute. His condition can change in a heartbeat. In the midst of the treatment, there were good and bad days for little Adam. His dad notes that some days he didn’t even seem sick, while there were others when he couldn’t get out of bed. And the fight is far from complete, as Adam is at risk for other forms of cancer because of the medications that were used to fight his leukemia.
Seeing our team member go through this battle has given us pause for thought about what is truly important. We are thankful that Greg and his family are on the brighter side of an extremely difficult situation and we will continue to support them as proud members of Adam’s Army.
To learn more about Adam’s battle, help in the fight against childhood cancer or join his army, consider following his Facebook page.