A cancer diagnosis slows life down to hours and days, rather than months and years. Wes and Mandy Slocum faced that reality on April 25, 2013, when they received the words, “it’s leukemia.”
Mandy and Wes’s son Drew was born healthy and thriving at 8 pounds. However, as he approached five and a half months old, his parents realized that we wasn’t smiling as easily, sleeping as well, and overall was not the easygoing baby they had come to know.
Wes and Mandy took Drew to the pediatrician for reassurance. They went to the pediatrician three times over the course of 11 days and were first told he was likely fighting a virus, then told he may have an ear infection, but antibiotics would clear it up in a few days. Finally, after Mandy and Wes realized Drew’s coloring was off they went in for a third visit, where blood was drawn and results came back very abnormal. They were immediately admitted to Levine Children’s Hospital for more tests and received the news 48 hours later that Drew had Infantile Leukemia (ALL).
“My initial feeling was confusion – I knew it was bad based on Mandy’s reaction, but I didn’t know anything about Leukemia, the treatment, the prognosis – I was clueless,” said Wes.
Drew was first admitted to 24 Foundation beneficiary, LCH, for 36 days to undergo a treatment called induction that consisted of strong chemotherapy and sleepless nights. Wes recounts that the first year of treatment was particularly hard as the list of chemotherapy and steroid medicine Drew was receiving at the time became longer than his arm and often left him guessing. As they ventured into the second year of treatment, the process got a little easier and more “normal,” as Wes and Mandy were able to be home with Drew more than they were in the hospital.
Their “new normal” was interrupted when they realized Drew had lost his drive to play and walk around, preferring to be held most of the time. The Slocums made several trips to the doctor in October, November and December of 2014, but felt uneasy from test results. On New Years Eve, they took Drew back to the hospital after they believed he was retaining fluid, and he was admitted. Drew passed away on January 2, 2015, from Acute Infectious Myocarditis, a condition where the body attacks the heart because an infection has settled into the heart.
“Per the autopsy, this was completely unrelated to his cancer/treatment, but I can’t help but believe that with better treatment protocols, that don’t lead to prolonged periods of time where patients are immune suppressed, Drew’s story could be different.” Wes said. “I’ve learned what an honor and a blessing it is to be a parent, to be Drew’s Dad, and for my wife, Drew’s Mom – there is no greater blessing in this world for us and we’ll never lose that perspective.”
Wes became a part of 24 Hours of Booty in 2014, following Drew’s original diagnosis after meeting Josh and Barb Jones on the 11th floor of Levine Children’s Hospital, where the Jones’ daughter Libby was also being treated for cancer. “Josh invited me to join Team LibStrong, and I was excited to ride to honor Libby,” Wes said. “I had never been a cyclist, but after experiencing the energy of the event and the community of the riders, I was hooked.”
Team Libstrong quickly transformed into Team Libstrong/Drew’s Crew to honor both Libby and Drew. “You can’t find a better group of people that all hate cancer,” Wes says. And Wes is thrilled to have Levine Children’s Hospital as a primary beneficiary of the Charlotte event. “Funding Levine’s Children’s Hospital specifically is extremely important to my wife, Mandy, and I, because we know how important great care is while you are literally fighting for your child’s life. Our friends and family rallied around us after diagnosis and created ‘Drew’s Crew,’ and my brother Matt came up with our tag line of ‘Stay in the Fight,’ and that’s exactly what we try to do each day… stay in the fight against cancer.”
Wes’s employer Accenture is devoted to 24 Foundation’s mission, as well, sponsoring the 2018 24 Hours of Booty event, and transforming Bootyville’s Orange Zone into the Orange Zone presented by Accenture.
“Accenture was extremely supportive of me and my family, over the course of the 20 months Drew was in treatment, allowing me to take as much time as I needed. I’m fortunate to have many colleagues and friends at Accenture that have donated to 24 Foundation over the last 4 years. 24 Foundation kicked off 2018 by hosting a corporate sponsor breakfast, and Accenture was happy to be invited by Bank of America. Accenture has rallied around this cause and is proud to be a Gold Level corporate sponsor for 24 Hours of Booty 2018.”