Kevin Washburn said it felt like some turned their world upside down and shook it like a snow globe.
“She said, ‘I can run 50 more tests but your son basically has no blood count, and the only explanation for that is that he has leukemia,'” recalled Kevin from the day five years ago his son Ethan was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at seven years old.
“I remember feeling incredibly numb,” recalled Ethan's mother Missy Washburn, “And I couldn't figure out how to call my mom on my cell phone to call my mom and tell her we're going from the pediatrician to St. Jude.”
Ethan said he felt like he had a cold or the flu. A second visit to the pediatrician's officer proved more than Ethan could handle.
“It was pretty scary and I was pretty frustrated because I had no idea what it was, I was blaming it on other people,” he recalled.
But all of the fear and frustrations dimmed as soon as they stepped through St. Jude's doors.
“When we walked in the door I know we had to look frightened, and someone immediately came up to use and said, ‘Where do you need to go?'” said Missy.
From that moment on, St. Jude felt like home.
“It didn't even feel like a hospital, it just felt like I was sitting around at home or eating at home. It kind of became a second home to me,” said Ethan.
Ethan's twin brother Cooper Washburn added, “It doesn't exactly feel like a hospital, but sometimes it is scary but that kind of comes with the fact your brother has cancer.”
While Kevin is an upbeat father, joking about his wife being surrounded by boys – the twin boys, him and a male dog – he said Ethan's diagnosis hit him hard. St. Jude's atmosphere, despite the heavy burden's filling the hospital, helped hold him up.
“Everyone is so upbeat, it's such a happy place to go which is the opposite of what you'd expect,” he said, “Just having that as your backdrop really it just kind of insulates you and helps you be there for your child.”
The care of the doctors and nurses for the whole family stands out to Missy.
“They know all the children and they celebrate the highs with them and they're there to support them in the lows, and they never let them give up,” she said, “Ethan's doctor would go through his protocol plan with him and said, ‘What do you think we should do today?'”
During the diagnosis and treatment, the co-owner of Bardog, a friend of Kevin approached them with a 5K idea.
“We're going to raise money to support you and your family,” he recalled, “Obviously because St. Jude doesn't charge the family for the care they provide them, we decided really in one conversation that we were going to do this to raise money for St. Jude.”
Five years later, the Breakaway Bardog 5K has grown from a few hundred runners to nearly 1,000. This year's takes place Sunday, Aug. 17: A special anniversary for the Washburns.
“August 17, 2012, was Ethan's last planned chemo and treatment day,” said Missy, “It was a very long day and we had a celebration to mark the end of it.”
For the second anniversary, they're inviting everyone to the celebration.
Kevin added, “It just feels like one big extended family part to help us celebrate.”
“I can tell you as a parent it's very hard to see your child their childhood give way to chemo and hospitals and doctors,” said Missy, “And to be on the other side of treatment I encourage everyone to come out and run and be a part of the cause for St. Jude.”
Registration is still available at the Breakaway Bardog 5K website; day-of registration is welcome as well. The race is Sunday starting at 9 a.m. starting at Bardog Tavern at 73 Monroe Avenue in Downtown Memphis.