We believe that together we can make a difference...Giving back through life-changing experiences.
June 14, 2021
Shana Kay Ragland (mother)
Son: Derrick Ragland, Jr. (D.J.)
Diagnosis: Pre B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (A.L.L.)
My husband and I recall when D.J., at just 4 months old, was admitted to the hospital after having a 102 fever. He was discharged one week later when the medical team was able to bring his fever down for 48 hours. For the months to follow, it was common for D.J. to always have a runny nose or complain about body aches. The story was always the same after doctor’s visits “He’s in daycare, it’s just his immune system building”, but we knew something wasn’t right.
On March 28, 2019, our then two-year-old (D.J.) was diagnosed with Pre B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. We didn’t know what this would mean for DJ and our family. We were scared and relieved. Scared because our son who loves to love, read books, play with toys, be jovial, and was an all-around positive light to be around, was diagnosed with something as “terminal” as cancer. Nevertheless, we considered it a blessing to finally have a definitive answer to what he was enduring. After many conversations and educating ourselves, my husband and I, decided to focus on D.J. To be honest, D.J. kind of made it easy. It wasn’t uncommon to hear visiting family and friends ask us “Is he really suffering from leukemia? He is just so… happy.” But, we could see his struggle. We could see the way he labored after chasing the ball with his cousins or how he would take time to just sit down with his grandma as he regained his strength. D.J. taught us a most valuable lesson during his fight with cancer: To let him be a kid. Yes, we would worry and we were seriously aware. However, our goal became to amplify the natural energy that he radiated and encourage positive energy around him.
I was introduced to Operation: Key West, by Chris (Child Development Specialist, Naval Medical Portsmouth). He explained how this organization truly cared about the patients and their families. This was proven true in the days to follow. I was surprised at how fast Kathy reached out to my family. I was appreciative of her time. Not long after, we received gifts in the mail. Each gift was personalized for each member of our family. D.J. and his brother, Zayvian was so excited and very thankful. I appreciated the smile on my children’s faces as they opened the gifts and so much more as my husband was deployed and the boys and I were having a rough week. It all came together.
Thank you, Operation: Key West.
The Ragland Family
My name is Taylor Roberts, I am a 20 year old pediatric oncology patient, trying to get through life while receiving treatment for various forms of cancer. I've had 3 diagnosis's over the years, first one being Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (A.L.L.) in 2014, I was 13 then and my 8th year diagnosis anniversary was just last month, February 2021. My next diagnosis was Myelodysplastic Syndrome (M.D.S.) in 2018. Now my current diagnosis is Acute Myeloid Leukemia (A.M.L.). Initial diagnosis at age 13 ultimately meant I never had much of my own childhood it was always about getting my treatments and staying healthy. It also meant after my first diagnosis I was never able to experience traditional schooling, rather I was homeschooled and went to online high school from which I graduated in 2016. Two years later in 2018 I had my first bone marrow transplant at Duke University. Now in 2021, I'm getting ready for a 2nd transplant from Johns Hopkins which will hopefully happen this month or next month, February-March.
Through all of the experiences detailed above, Taylor has done his best to remain positive. He has never asked for anything but for his treatments to be successful. Through our relationship with Chris Brogan, a Child Life Specialist, Pediatric Ward, Portsmouth Naval Hospital, we have been able to get Taylor to supply us with a short list of things that would help him as he continues his fight. We are using the money we raised through our Operation: Key West to fill out Taylor's wish list.
1. A gaming laptop. I would really love to have this since I have to essentially stay home when I'm not in the hospital and gaming is one of my hobbies.
2. Noise canceling headphones. Being in a hospital for any amount of time isn't fun and it can get noisy a lot.
3. New phone case. I drop my phone a lot and my case shows it.
4. Gift cards to various places like Door Dash for food delivery in the hospital, the Navy Exchange, Khols or Walmart for clothes, and Wawa for gas.
PORTSMOUTH, VA, UNITED STATES
Story by Seaman Imani Daniels
Naval Medical Center - Portsmouth
A patient of Naval Medical Center Portsmouth (NMCP) Pediatric Oncology Department received a gift from Operation Key West, March 4.
Operation Key West is a program that aides in helping military families and small businesses. Their sole purpose is to improve the quality of life for wounded heroes and their families.
Taylor Roberts, a 20 year old patient who has been diagnosed with various forms of cancer, has been a patient of NMCP for a good portion of his life.
“He was diagnosed with leukemia back in 2014,” said Jimmy Roberts, Taylor’s dad. “This medical center has been a big part of his treatment. We have been a part of the Portsmouth family for a long time.”
Through the relationship with Chris Brogan, NMCP’s Child Life Specialist, Operation Key West was able to coordinate with Brogan to get a short list of things that would help Taylor as he continues his fight against cancer. At the top of the list was a gaming laptop.
“He loves gaming, it is his favorite hobby,” Roberts said. “It’s a really big gift for him.”
Through all of his experiences, Taylor has done his best to remain positive and is extremely excited about his new gaming laptop.
“That laptop is so much more than a computer,” Brogan said. “It is an opportunity to share joy, to shine a light through some of the dark difficulties of life, to be human, to love one another. It has truly touched Taylor and those of us who care for him.”
As the U.S. Navy's oldest, continuously-operating military hospital since 1830, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth proudly serves past and present military members and their families. The nationally-acclaimed, state-of-the-art medical center, along with the area's 10 branch health and TRICARE Prime Clinics, provide care for the Hampton Roads area. The medical center also supports premier research and teaching programs designed to prepare new doctors, nurses and hospital corpsman for future roles in healing and wellness.
Son: Danny Born:
November 14, 1997 Died: January 2005
I found love, and married Amy in 1997. As a military BRAT, I always saw my future as a soldier. Enlisting in the Army a little over a year after high school was what I was always meant to do. Now with a new wife, a baby on the way and a bright future as a solider we were ready to start our life together and we were looking forward to where that life would take us.
After a few months at our first duty location, Fort Carson, CO on 14 November 1997 our son Danny was born. There were massive complications during the delivery, causing him to suffer severe brain damage. Amy and I had to make decisions that no 20 year olds should ever have to make. The delivery left our infant son very sick and with an uncertain future at best. Hospitalized and his life hanging by a thread.
Life in the military is not the easiest. We were half way across the country with just the support of my unit and with family far away. When the absolute worst thing in the world happened, nothing could have prepared us for the situation that we were in. We had to make several difficult choices that would affect the rest of our lives.
It was for the best interest that our Danny and Amy, returned to back to the east coast. To an area where they were able to not only receive some of the best medical care in the country at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children but also they had the emotional support needed to make it through this trying time. Danny was in the NICU at St. Christopher’s until New Year’s Eve, 1997. I followed our family back to the NJ area on a special assignment meant to help stabilize our family. We were assigned to Fort Monmouth, NJ which was close enough for us to take Danny to specialty medical appointments as needed and still allow me to continue my career.
While on this Companionate Assignment, Danny’s condition went through ups and downs. He needed multiple surgeries and the severity of his injuries were starting to come to light. He was never going to be a “normal” child. It took the better part of a year but soon Danny was healthy enough for me come off of the companion assignment and the Army reassigned us to Fort Hood, TX. By this time we had become well equipped to deal with all the complications that come from raising a medically fragile child.
After being at Fort Hood for three years and two years after welcoming our second child, our daughter Haleigh, the wars on terror began after the events of 9/11. I was soon facing long deployments and the training that comes along with these deployments. It was decided that it was best for our family that Amy and the children to return back to Southern New Jersey. This was for support and stability of medical care for Danny. I was a soldier and I was going to be going to combat.
During my first deployment in 2004, Danny fell extremely ill several time. Not wanting to distract me from the battles that I was facing in Iraq, Amy endured heartache after heartache and kept the severity of his condition to herself. Danny’s health started to deteriorate rapidly and he became extremely ill.
Finally, on a snowy east coast morning in January 2005, a Red Cross message was sent to my command in Iraq, to inform me that Danny had passed away. He was 7 years old. Within hours my unit set up a special patrol through dangerous territory just to get me back to Baghdad where I could get a flight home. It took me 36 hours to arrive home to bury our son. Soon after I had to return back to my state side base, to start training up again for my next deployment.
For many people the events of those years would have be too much to bare, we watch marriages fail under less stress. None the less we keep up our long distance marriage to give our family time to grieve as we moved forward but never forgetting our shared loss. Finally after several deployments to Iraq and a worn out body, it was time for me to get an assignment to truly let the family healing begin. That is when I was assigned to work at the Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB). The time at the WTB was good for us as a whole allowing us to come together as a family and not have to worry about us being split apart again.
We look at everything that has happened to us and the challenges that we faced as things that have brought us closer together as a family. There are not many couples that would be able to start out so young and experience such tragedy as the loss of a child and still be together. Always pushing forward and cherishing the past. We will never forget the love we have for our son, we think of him often and know that he lived a life full of love and joy that saw him want for nothing
Born: November 17, 2015 Died: April 2018
Revel was born on November 17, 2015 and at 14 months of age was diagnosed with Stage 4 MYCN+ neuroblastoma, a very rare type of cancerous tumor that almost always affects children. This dreadful disease took the life of Revel at the tender age of 4.
Revel's Mom and Dad, Jessica and JR, will never get the chance to watch him grow up. Never be able to send him off to his first day of school, watch him play sports, meet his first girlfriend, graduate from high school and/or college, attend his wedding, play with his children or be involved in any important event in his life.
Jessica is in the Air Force and has been for the past 18 years currently stationed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. Jessica has received many awards and medals for her service and continues to excel in her field which is nursing. JR was a fire fighter for many years and more recently works for a communications company.
Revel's favorite things were movie cars, being outside and building things with his right-hand man, Dad! He also loved his cookie monster and Thomas The Train wooden toys. A special trait of Revel is that he was always smiling, laughing and being the light in dark times.
Revel's main favorite food was Fruit Loops, but give him anything mommy and daddy were eating and he was a happy little boy!
Revel had the most beautiful soul. He just loved being the center of attention wherever he went. He was full of so much joy and light, when he laughed or smiled, you would just automatically do the same.
Rev's eyes made the bluest skies look gray. Just look at his pictures. At just 2 years old, Revel was an adventurer, a fierce warrior, a fighter and a cancer killer.
After Revel's initial diagnosis he underwent the following:
-7 rounds of chemotherapy
-12 radiation treatments
-50+ blood transfusions
-4 immunotherapy treatments
-Over 250 days in the hospital
After Revel relapsed:
-5 rounds of chemotherapy
-a plane ride to Johns Hopkins Hospital
The harsh reality of childhood cancer is the government only gives childhood cancer research 4% of all funding, making options limited. There was hope that Revel could be placed in a study receiving drugs that have unknown side effects but his parents had to weigh quantity vs. quality of life. Can you imagine? Having to process all of the emotions and pain, but still be expected to make life or death decisions for your TWO year old? Deciding between giving him more toxins with unknown side effects that could POSSIBLY prolong his life, but at an unknown expense, versus letting him be the happy, smiling, fierce little boy that he was, but not knowing how much time he had left. It is NOT fair. It is NOT right. And Revel deserved MORE THAN FOUR. Revel deserved the WORLD!
Son: Taylor Christian
Born: November 18, 2011 Died: May 1, 2018
Taylor was born on November 18, 2011 in Fayetteville, North Carolina, weighing 5 Ibs 5 oz and 18 inches long. He was the perfect little addition to Melissa and Roger's (Dada's) marriage. He grew rapidly, reaching milestones fairly early and slowly grew into a goofy, silly, fun and caring little boy. Taylor fell ill and there were no answers for 3 months. After 3 hospitals, two spinal surgeries, two medical helicopter flights, lots of physical therapy and even more "tubies", we finally found out it was "central nervous system-primitive Neuro epithelial tumor" ... brain and spine cancer.
Upon his parents' divorce, his life was kept in the limelight between them. Taylor's life soon got more rich when Anthony** (Daddy) came into his life and married his mama. Soon the Marines moved the family to San Diego and Daddy deployed shortly thereafter. When Daddy came home, Taylor was a big brother to Terra Rose (Sissy). Just six months after Daddy came home, Taylor fell ill and was diagnosed 3 months later.
Radiation, Chemotherapy and LOTS of steroids later, Taylor was still his parents pride and joy. A strong boy who never ever gave up ... and a brand new big brother.
Taylor was eventually adopted by Daddy.
Taylor fought a good fight and eventually overcame his cancer by transitioning to Heaven at 6 years old on May 1, 2018. Taylor is survived by his Mother, Dada, Daddy, Sissy as well as another new sibling on the way, a cat Siri, a dog Piper and "Trish" & Gearette" (our vehicles). (The Annjenette Foundation provided the airfare for Anthony and Melissa's trip)
** Anthony is currently a Gunnery Sargeant in the United States Marines, serving as a Powerline Division Chief. Anthony stated "Unfortunately, we will never have a complete family photo."
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