Nick’s House Stories: The Beachy Family

By: Jennifer Hoffman

Becky and Jason Beachy are used to constant travelling, calling several cities and countries their home.

For the time being Swarthmore, Pennsylvania is their new home. But this time, they aren’t here for work or for leisure. They are here to save their four-year-old son’s life.

Their son Will was diagnosed with ALL Type B in March of 2017 while the Beachy’s were living in the Netherlands. The rambunctious 18-month-old started to walk and run around long before most kids his age, but his parents would soon discover that he was limping on both legs.

“He had difficulty walking, and wasn’t verbal enough to voice his pain. He limped on either leg, and stopped standing because it was too painful to do so,” recalled Jason. His parents took him to the Emergency Room in Hague where he was officially diagnosed with cancer.

Due to the nature of the couple’s job, moving to different places is inevitable but thankfully Will’s doctors are all part of the Pediatric Oncology Group which allows his medical record to be accessed by doctors and hospitals across the country. So when Becky and Jason found out they would be moving to San Diego there was no issue with being able to continue Will’s treatment there. In fact, it’s made transition from hospital to hospital very easy.

His initial treatment consisted of intense chemotherapy out the gate. “First time around it was pretty standard treatment for ALL Type B- induction 1 month in hospital, maintenance was the rest of the time, and different phases of chemo,” said Becky.

For the last year Will was receiving once a month outpatient chemotherapy and twice a month inpatient and home care treatments. He was trucking through his treatment and everything was going as planned. He was supposed to wrap up treatment in June, but his numbers took a turn for the worse and Becky and Jason received news that no parent wants to hear:

Your son’s cancer relapsed.

Three years to the day exactly of his initial diagnosis, Will’s cancer had returned.

The family packed up their belongings and boarded a plane headed towards Philadelphia so that Will could receive further treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He is a part of their T-Cell Therapy group, a program solely available at CHOP. “Had we stayed in San Diego, he would have been put through induction again, a month in the hospital where he would have been super sick. That first month is horrible,” said Becky.

“By us coming out here and being a part of this study, we are hopefully avoiding going through that again,” Jason added.

While waiting for Will’s T-Cells to be manufactured and returned, the family is staying at Nick’s House, through the HEADstrong Foundation’s residential support services. Coming out here to save their son’s life is hard enough, but having to do it during a pandemic adds extra strain to an already stressful situation.

“This house has been a true blessing. To have this space and a place where the kids can play outside. It’s been great to have an organization that understands where you are and what you’ve been going through,” Jason said.

For the couple’s six-year-old daughter Lily, it’s simply another move. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, schools have been closed, so Lily has been able to continue her schoolwork from Nick’s House and Will was removed from kindergarten because he was immunocompromised long before the virus started. “COVID has been a saving grace for us. We didn’t have to take Lily away from her friends because she couldn’t see them anyway. It’s been a positive for us,” said Becky.

Cancer has dictated how the Beachy’s have lived their lives for the last three years. It is the driving factor behind every decision the family makes. But what it has made clear is, the importance of family during trying times. “Nothing else really matters outside of our kids. Our lives revolved around doctors appointments and dosages, those were the standards in time. We do everything else around that. It’s definitely changed our perspective on life,” Jason said.

If all goes well and his body accepts the T-Cells, with both fingers crossed Will should be in the clear and can go back to being a normal three-year-old. “It’ll be a milestone when they say the T-Cells are ready!” Jason exclaimed.

“We are very grateful to have the HEADstrong Foundation. The house is nice, but it’s also the knowledge that Cheryl has and the team has, what we are going through. We never thought we would have to lean on the help of strangers, and this is a time that we do. We certainly appreciate it,” the Beachy’s said.