Before June 2011, Krista Pak considered herself an average wife and mother with a typical daily routine. Then, the lives of her whole family changed. Her five-year-old son, Wes, was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma, a rare and serious childhood cancer.
Now 11 years old, Wes has undergone dozens of cycles of chemotherapy and radiation, more than 15 rounds of antibody treatments, numerous major surgeries, and multiple clinical trials. For several years, Krista and Wes flew from their hometown in Virginia to see a specialized team in New York City. The cancer continued to relapse, and as there is no protocol for treatment at this stage, Wes is now dependent on clinical trials and investigative therapeutics.
After Wes’ fourth relapse, the family sought another opinion and found one of the top neuroblastoma oncologists in the country at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich. Knowing they had a multi-week stay ahead of them, a hotel room was not an option for the Pak family. Krista and Wes checked in to the Ronald McDonald House of Western Michigan and were relieved to find a home away from home.
“It’s difficult to be in a new and unfamiliar place,” said Krista. “But we were welcomed at the Ronald McDonald House with open arms. The staff is so helpful and friendly, and the atmosphere is peaceful and homey.”
Krista, her husband and her three sons will likely continue to experience the heartbreaking effects of this life-threatening disease for years to come, but they remain hopeful.
“This journey has proven to be one that is a roller coaster of emotions and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy,” she said. “However, it is also bittersweet, because it has reminded me how precious life is and to always cherish the small things.”