Meet 4-year-old ‘warrior princess' Colby Fowle, whose brave fight against leukemia is inspiring an entire community
The holidays are the most joyous time of the year for any young American family, and the Fowles were certainly no exception. Katharine and Ross Fowle were reveling in the approach of Christmas 2012, living vicariously through the gleeful anticipation of their children, 5-year-old Cooper and his sister, Colby, age 3. Sure, Colby’s recurring low-grade fever had caught her parents’ attention, but she seemed perfectly fine in every other way, and they were well aware of the tendency among kids to infect and reinfect each other, along with their immediate families. So, they decided to remain vigilant but keep things festive and lighthearted for the kids’ sakes.
New Year 2013 had come and gone; unfortunately, the same could not be said of Colby’s recurring fevers, which would disappear for a couple/few days, then return. Katharine and Ross decided it was time to get Colby checked out, and it was a good thing they did.
“We took Colby in to get blood work and an ultrasound at around 8 in the morning of January 22,” recalls Katharine. “By 9 a.m., we were getting the names of pediatric oncologists in Baltimore.”
Colby was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a disease of the blood and bone marrow that is the most common type of leukemia in children from birth to age 19 and the most common type of cancer in children ages one through seven. But while cancer stories too often have bleak endings and offer only the most grudging basis for hope, the progress made in recent years with the treatment ALL is anything but discouraging.
“In 1964, the survival rate of ALL was 3 percent,” said Jennifer Veil of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). “Today, it’s over 90 percent! There was a time this disease was considered a death sentence; thankfully, those days are over.”
That’s because of a combination of factors that includes some amazing breakthrough research being done at places like the University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins, as well as the generous support they receive from institutions such as the LLS. In the case of Maryland, for example, a whopping 78 cents of every dollar the LLS receives goes to its mission of research, support services and advocacy — making it no surprise that the LLS is among the top three charitable nonprofit organizations nationwide.
One of the LLS’ most anticipated fundraising initiatives is the annual Man & Woman of the Year campaign. Each year, in communities across the country, passionate candidates engage in a spirited competition to earn the title of the LLS “Man & Woman of the Year” because of their fundraising efforts on behalf of blood cancer research. The candidates compete on behalf of children in their communities who are coping with blood cancer, the “Boy & Girl of the Year.” Every dollar raised counts as one vote, and the titles are awarded to the man and woman with the most votes at the end of 10 weeks.
Though the annual “MWOY” spring campaign has been in effect nationally for 23 years, it wasn’t until last year that Maryland’s Eastern Shore was specifically represented. In all, 10 dedicated candidates from the region will stump on behalf of the 2014 Boy of the Year, 8-year-old Joshua Czorapinski of Stevensville, and his female counterpart, the-now-4-year-old Colby Fowle of Ocean City, who, her mother revealed, has earned a pretty cool nickname.
“People have started referring to Colby as ‘The Warrior Princess’ now,” Katharine said, “because of her incredible resiliency and what a fighter she is. Colby’s been known to come home after a 12-hour treatment cycle, which may have included chemotherapy, a spinal tap and steroid treatment, and immediately jump on her bike and ride around the neighborhood or run around on the T-ball field. Lots of people don’t quite understand how she does it, and that group often includes her father and me… but that’s just our Colby.”
Things are looking good in general for this green-eyed angel of Ocean City. Her blood work continues to be good, her beautiful blond locks have begun to grow back in full force, her body weight is back to normal and the color has returned to her face. Still, it’s a long road that Colby has to travel with her family in tow. By the time her treatment protocol culminates in April 2015, she will have undergone 26 months of treatment, including 22 separate surgical procedures that required anesthesia.
“Our goal at the LLS is a world without blood cancer,” said Veil, who is the MWOY Eastern Shore campaign coordinator, “and between some recent yet very encouraging treatment breakthroughs and the indomitable spirit and courage of kids like Colby and Joshua, we’re so much closer to making that goal a reality.”
There are three candidates vying for MWOY honors who are residents of the Lower Eastern Shore. They are Ocean Pines police officer Ricky Kerrigan, Jeff Keenan of Re: Fresh Media/Indian River Seafood Co. and Eva Paxton of the Salisbury Rollergirls. With the aid of their respective teams, each candidate has been staging and hosting fun events throughout the campaign that will raise money for the LLS.
On Friday, June 6, the Maryland chapter of the LLS will hold its annual “Grand Finale Gala” at The Tidewater Inn in Easton. Each Eastern Shore candidate will present 10 auction items whose proceeds will go to their individual vote totals. In addition to the auction, the evening’s festivities will include dinner, bar, live music and dancing. In attendance that evening will be Dr. Patrick Brown, the director of the Pediatric Leukemia Program at Johns Hopkins’ Kimmel Cancer Center and a pioneer leukemia researcher. Colby and Joshua will also be there. Tickets to the formal event are $150 per person.
Visit www.MWOY.org/md, then click on the Eastern Shore tab to learn more about the Boy & Girl of the Year and the candidates for Man/Woman of the Year, as well as the roster of events that each candidate has planned for the remainder of the MWOY 2014 campaign. Donations may be made on each candidate’s individual fundraising web page. You may also contact Jennifer Veil at 443-786-6439 or firstname.lastname@example.org.