Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Atwood Family Story

Karissa, Luke, John, and Laci @ Family House

The Atwood family is currently facing an illness that changed their life in an instant. Only two months ago, on February 21st of this year, parents John and Karissa learned that their youngest child Laci had cancer. After the diagnosis of embryonal botryoid rhabdomyosarcoma—which is one of the more common, tumorous forms of childhood cancers—the Atwood’s life has been a whirlwind. As it turned out, although Laci had a common type of cancer, hers was incredibly rare in its location; located in her ear and temporal bone, less than one millimeter from her brain, surgery was not an option. What all of this meant was that Laci was now classified as having Stage III cancer and would have to undergo a 42 week treatment plan, involving both chemotherapy and radiation.

The Atwood’s immediately began the treatment process at their home in Fresno, CA, but were halted shortly thereafter when their hospital’s radiation machine broke. John, Karissa, Laci, and 5 year old brother Luke were forced to move quickly: it was 9 PM the night they learned that they needed to be transferred up to San Francisco, and they had to be at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital by 9 AM the next morning. The family remembers being told that they were going to stay at Family House, and that everything was already set up for their arrival. However, John was skeptical at first—a feeling that many families may have upon their impending arrival to this new home away from home.  He laughed, confessing that on that first night he took his family to stay at a hotel instead.
After being here for over three weeks, John was happy to share that his feelings of uneasiness about coming to Family House have completely subsided. He noted that even if his family could afford a different living situation while up here in San Francisco, they would still choose to be at Family House. He summed it up, saying that they “wouldn’t do it any other way”. When asked what they like most about Family House, John and Karissa agreed that the feeling of community between all the families staying here is one of the best perks. Whether they are connecting with families going through the same diagnosis that they are, or whether they are learning about different situations than theirs, the Atwood’s appreciate being able to share this time with a new, inner support group. In fact, they said that they have formed life-long friendships in the few weeks that they have been here. These newly formed friendships, as well as the supportive staff, have led John to remark that by being here he has changed for the better.


  1. We love you Atwood family and are so thankful for all the good that family house does!

  2. Sending a lot of love and prayers to the Atwood family. I know this isn't how you would choose your 15 minutes of fame, but, I also know that cancer can be a blessing in so many other ways. And from the sound of this blog, your blessing came in the way of Family House, new friends, and experiences that had this not happened, you would never have known. God Bless, heal, and continue to carry sweet Laci in His tender arms ♥ Have fun at the races, and look forward to seeing you back in Fresno with all of this a distant memory ~~~
    Kathi (Holmberg)

  3. Hello family....I say family cause I consider the Boles, Miller, and Klinchuch family here in Bakersfield! Your story has touched so many hearts and lives. No one like to hear the word cancer...especially in a child. My husband and girls already race for breast cancer awareness....Now we add Laci to our cars and our hearts! Our prayers are with you always. Keep your strength in your family and your faith!!! BE BLESSED!.... The Thompsons.....Shane, Shannon, Bailey, & Rikki.

  4. John, God bless you and your family on your journey back to health. Let us know if we can do anything from Fresno in addition to our prayers...George Kiessling & family.

  5. God bless your little girl to a speedy and healthy recovery. Will keep you all in my prayers.

  6. Thank you everyone for the sweet, thoughtful replies to the Atwood family. They appreciate everyone's support in this time!


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