Thursday, November 24, 2022

5 Year Cancer-versary

Five years ago on this date - November 24th 2017 (Black Friday, ironically) - Caroline was diagnosed with Stage IV, High-Risk Neuroblastoma in one of the “holding” rooms on the Radiology floor at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Our lives changed forever when we heard our pediatrician emotionally explain that Caroline had a massive, cancerous tumor in her midsection.  As we look back 5 years later, we thought we’d share our individual feelings about how our journey through this disease has impacted us. 

Mark: It’s been a rough 5 years for our family in so many ways. I think we’ve shared much of this over the journey, so no reason for me to re-hash it all today. On this Thanksgiving, and 5 year anniversary of her diagnosis, I’d like to focus on what we do have: we have each other, we still have our daughter and we have hope that our future will be long and bright, and much less exhausting in the years to come. I am thankful for the Vanderbilt medical team that has helped us beat this once, and is now helping Caroline beat it again after her April relapse. I’m thankful for research groups like Beat Childhood Cancer, for continuing to fight for these amazing warriors. I’m thankful for our extended family, co-workers, friends, neighbors, prayer warriors, and community of many, that have lifted us up over the last 5 years.  I’m thankful for Margaret’s ability to process all the care and treatment requirements on a daily basis.  I’m very proud of how Andrew has handled all of this to date. He has seen much more than any kid his age should.  And my rock star, Caroline - the treatment for pediatric cancers are very outdated and extremely harsh. I really have no idea how she has survived all this and maintained such an amazing attitude and outlook…on the other hand, I have never doubted her. She’s my hero! 

Margaret: My heart shattered on 11/24/17, when we were informed that Caroline had Stage IV cancer. My heart was obliterated on 4/8/22, when my biggest fear of her cancer coming back became a reality. I am broken in an irreparable way, yet stronger for it. Being a “cancer mom” is the penultimate life of dichotomies. It’s paralyzing to constantly feel two things at once: overwhelming sadness coupled with overwhelming relief that Caroline is alive; perpetual fear of her dying, but also survivor’s guilt knowing so many kids who have passed; breaking down, but also being strong beyond belief; wanting to be with both of my kids, but having to choose…a steady stream of anxiety, exhaustion, frustration and disconnection, yet a calmness about not being in control, and closeness to Mark that is rock-solid. Most of what we see and hear Caroline go through…the questions she and Andrew need answered…realities that need to be explained…so much innocence lost, and for so long now. It’s all just too much: too scary, too gross, too heartbreaking, and definitely too much to share on the blog. As we hit the 5 year milestone, it’s hard to believe Caroline has lived with cancer longer than she hasn’t, yet she remains the brightest of lights, and the reason I keep going. 

Andrew: “after 5 years, cancer life feels normal…things that didn’t feel normal in the beginning, feel regular now. When she got cancer again, things that might have seemed like a big deal before, aren’t really that big of a deal because we already went through this. It doesn’t feel good to be the brother of someone that has cancer because my mom is gone all the time and I don’t get to see my sister. Also, it’s not good that I can’t go to the hospital this time around because of COVID rules - it makes me feel really sad. I always have my dad, but I don’t always have my mom. Stuff always gets canceled - like we were supposed to go to Florida for Thanksgiving, but then Caroline got a virus. I understand why things get canceled though, and it’s ok. I don’t feel scared that she’s going to die because I know that Vanderbilt is going to save her life. When I found out she relapsed, I thought it was just going to be the same kind of stuff as last time, and it basically is the same, other than the fact that I can’t go to the hospital this time. When Caroline gets gifts, or gets to do cool stuff without me, I feel left out, but mostly I feel fine. That’s all.”

Caroline: “hey guys, it’s Caroline here. I just wanted to tell you thank you for all the prayers and to my Vanderbilt people for giving me encouragement to get through this in one piece. It’s been rough the past few weeks, but I’ve powered through thanks to everybody out there. I was sad when I relapsed, and it was really hard for me to tell everyone - I just wanted to be a normal kid and it’s really sad. I’m really thankful for my family, friends and my dog, Hank.”

Wishing you and yours a truly blessed Thanksgiving!
The Lantz Family

11/24/22 through the years (2017-2022)...


  1. You are all being prayed for and held in our hearts. Caroline strong!

  2. We have been following Caroline’s journey since the beginning. We pray for her and hope she’s doing ok. All our love and support - The Rojo Family, Chicago Il. PS, Caroline you are such an inspiration and we are so proud of how far you’ve come! Never Give Up😊

  3. Dear Caroline, I am praying that you have good health in 2023, You don't deserve all you have gone through. May God continue to bless you and be by your side on your journey, You are in my prayers every night, although I have never met you I feel your presence in my heart. Continue to be strong and God Bless the medical staff who have fought along with you. God Bless you always. Love and prayers to you and your family. Carol

  4. I’ve followed your blog and Caroline’s story for quite some time now! What fierce warriors you all are. There is no stronger display of love and determination than what is shown throughout your posts. May God’s light and love continue to shine through you all. My sincerest prayers are with you and your family!