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“When Being Strong is the Only Choice You Have.” Anna’s Superhero Story

Posted: April 27, 2017

In September of 2011, when her daughter Anna was only 18 months old, Krissy was told the words, “your child has cancer.” It was something she never expected to hear about her sweet, energetic and innocent baby girl, and it completely blindsided her.

“I distinctly remember hearing those words, while holding Anna tightly, rocking her as tears ran down my face. Looking back on that day, everything seems to be a big blur because everything was happening so quickly.”

Anna, Acute Lymphoblastic LeukemiaAnna’s first week of diagnosis.

After weeks of ear infections, high fevers, a loss of appetite and pain in both legs that had caused her to stop walking, Anna had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) by doctors at the UVA Children’s Hospital. She was one of the 40,000 children diagnosed with cancer each year.

Although Krissy’s world had been turned upside down, her family didn’t have time to think about anything except putting Anna in the best possible position to fight this life-threatening diagnosis.

The standard treatment for ALL is an intimidating 2 1/2 years for most female patients, so after her diagnosis, Anna was immediately put on an intense chemotherapy regimen. She had to endure weekly clinic visits, numerous hospital stays, MRI’s, surgeries, blood and platelet transfusions, sedations, loss of hair and daily medications and extended hospital stays.

All of this disrupted the “normal” family and work life that Krissy had only weeks earlier. She quickly learned to expect the unexpected and to adapt to the new life. Thankfully, she had some amazing sidekicks along the way that helped her.

Anna, Acute Lymphoblastic LeukemiaAll smiles while celebrating her birthday.

“You rely on family and friends in ways that you could have never imagined. You also build friendships with the medical staff that will last a lifetime. You see entire communities come together for a little girl that they’ve never met, and it’s something that you’ll never ever forget.”

In 2013, when Anna was still in treatment, Krissy came across the CureSearch website. It was a video about Annie Gould, who started the Charlottesville, Virginia Walk after losing her daughter Eloise to cancer, that caught her eye.

Krissy had taught Eloise’s dance class, and she immediately reached out to Annie. They talked about Anna’s diagnosis and about CureSearch, and she could tell how passionate Annie was about the organization and its cause. Shortly after, they formed team “AnnaStrong” for the 2013 walk.

Anna, Acute Lymphoblastic LeukemiaThe Pitts family with their doctor, Brian Belyea.

After her first walk, Krissy was asked to co-chair the committee the following year, and she’s been serving in that position ever since! She’s also on the National Superheroes Unite! Committee, helping to shape the program by giving ideas and feedback to other walks throughout the country. It’s something that has been very satisfying and rewarding to her.

Anna, Acute Lymphoblastic LeukemiaAnna receiving her medal.

“I’m honored to be involved in such a great organization. I love seeing a community come together to raise money for a cause that I’m so passionate about. I look forward to the day when there is a cure! Together we are fighting for the future every child deserves and every parent dreams of.”

Anna, Acute Lymphoblastic LeukemiaAnna and her family.

Martian Manhunter, a DC Comics superhero, once said, “The future is worth it. All the pain. All the tears. The future is worth the fight.” It was worth the fight for Krissy, who is happy to say that today, her superhero Anna is a healthy 7-year-old first grader whose hospital stays have now been replaced by gymnastics, dance, theater and soccer.

Anna, Acute Lymphoblastic LeukemiaAnna with big sis and sidekick, Grace.

Anna continues to see her medical team at UVA every four months for a checkup and blood work, but these appointments give Anna (and her family) the opportunity to visit some loyal sidekicks – an awesome medical team with whom they will forever hold a special bond.

Anna, Acute Lymphoblastic LeukemiaA big announcement.

To Krissy, there is no doubt that Anna is a superhero, along with all of those who have had to fight childhood cancer.

“Superheroes have a reputation for being brave and strong, and I’ve always loved the saying: ‘You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.’ Anna and all of the other cancer-fighting kids that I’ve known and grown to love, are all superheroes in our eyes.”

Anna, Acute Lymphoblastic LeukemiaAnna and her cancer-fighting sidekicks.

Help us fight the villain cancer in our countdown to National Superhero Day by donating toward lifesaving research. Help us give superheroes like Anna a chance to live longer, better and healthier lives.

*Photos courtesy of AFT Photography.

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“When Being Strong is the Only Choice You Have.” Anna’s Superhero Story was last modified: April 27th, 2017 by Geoff Duncan

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