SEGUIN, Texas - A Seguin 5-year-old girl has literally and metaphorically applied the phrase, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade” to her life.
Sailor Parker, who is about to celebrate her sixth birthday July 1, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in October 2018. Aaron Parker, Sailor’s dad, who is in the Air Force, and Megan Parker, Sailor’s mom, have had to adjust quite a bit since her diagnosis.
“I was stationed in San Angelo at the time, and they didn’t have the resources to treat Sailor,” Aaron Parker said. “We got moved to Dell City and then to San Antonio.”
During this time, the couple found out about the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.
“It is overwhelming when you get this kind of diagnosis,” Megan Parker said. “So through this, we learned a lot, and because Sailor hasn’t been able to play with children for about eight months now, we decided to do a lemonade stand to boost her morale. So what better thing to do than to put those proceeds to something that has been helpful and meaningful to us?”
Sailor hasn’t changed since her diagnosis.
“She has always been a shy kid,” Aaron Parker said. “She has always been shockingly particular, as well. You know usually you will have kids her age running around like Tasmanian devils, but not Sailor. She has always been particular and petite and neat.”
The biggest change to Sailor’s life has been the isolation she’s had to endure.
“I think a lot of kids who are diagnosed with cancer just roll with the punches, and they do great handling all the things they have to go through,” Aaron Parker said. “The fallout comes when they are not going to spend time with friends. A lot of the social development you would have at this age, just starting school and being with other kids and kind of learning the rules and how all of that works, she is not really getting to experience that. She had that for about two months, and then this happened.”
Losing her hair has also been a battle for Sailor.
“Even though Sailor was only 5, it impacted her severely,” Megan Parker said. “She had long hair and very feminine. At first, it started thinning out, and then we started doing short haircuts, and then to make her feel better, we all got undercuts and we shaved Daddy’s head. During this, we were able to collect really nice princess wigs so that is something we looked forward to. Whenever she is feeling down about the way she looks, she goes and puts one of those on, and it's all better.”
In the beginning, the family said they had no idea it was cancer they were dealing with.
“She just had really low energy, but we just thought she had allergies,” Aaron Parker said. “We chalked it up there because of the seasonal change happening going into the fall, and then she had bad ear infections, as well. We had, like, three sets of tubes put in. But she was complaining that she was low in energy and wasn’t feeling well, so we just thought it was that.”
Aaron Parker said after going to the clinic for an unrelated reason, they realized Sailor’s condition was more serious.
“Within a five- to six-hour span, we were getting LifeFlighted out,” Aaron Parker said. “I didn’t know anything about leukemia. I didn’t know the nature of the cancer. It is basically where the white blood cells go rogue and keep replicating and your red blood cells drop. Her red blood cell counts were just dropping, so she wasn’t getting the oxygen her body needed. She’d say she felt like her hands and her feet felt like they had pins and needles in them, that numb, tingly feeling. Her resting heart rate was 150 and 160, so she is was sitting there laying on the bed running a marathon with her heart.”
Since her diagnosis, the family said they are very knowledgeable about what is going on and that they pay close attention to Sailor’s health.
Sailor is about to raise enough money for 6 hours of cancer research to be done with the Alex Lemonade Stand Foundation, and she said she is not stopping there. The Seguin Police Department noticed her efforts in her community and surprised them with tickets to their annual Cinderella Ball.
“I just thought, ‘This is awesome!’ They even got her a dress to go with it,” Aaron Parker said. “She was really excited because she was going to be with other kids. We were practicing our dance moves and not knowing what the music was going to be like. We had a surprise when we got there. We were practicing fancy ball music type of dances, and then there was country and R&B and stuff, so we had to adapt. It was fun, though. I didn’t know, months ago, that I would be able to do something like this with her, so I was grateful for this experience."
One day, Sailor hopes to be a chef.
“I want to make every food in the whole entire world, but it would be tiring to make every single different food every different day,” Sailor laughed.
Her parents said Sailor is expected to make a recovery in the year 2021. They have one major message for the community.
“Leaning on family, friends or your community is not a weakness,” Megan Parker said. “You know the expression, ‘It takes a village.’ Well, it takes a village to get through something as traumatic as this.”
They also hope people will reconsider when seeing those donation opportunities at store registers.
“You should give,” Aaron Parker said. “It is really helping a lot of people in ways that you will never see, but it is really important.”
If you know anyone with a story like Sailor’s who is changing the community in their own way, send us your tips. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured on What’s Up South Texas.
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