Help Liam Fight JMML (Leukemia)

Meet Liam.

He's the bravest 2 year old I've ever known.  

Born healthy and strong on his Daddy's birthday, Liam met every developmental milestone, just like his two older sisters, until 4 months of age.  Then, suddenly, a dramatic shift.  Illness.  Weight loss.  Lack of appetite.  Developmental progress seemed to hault.

Duran and Cole are attentive loving parents.  Immediately, they sought answers.  For several months, test after test, doctors couldn't pinpoint why Liam was so sick.  Cole began to notice spots on liam's skin and around the same time, Liam ended up in the emergency room.  His health was rapidly declining.  During that time, finally a diagnosis:  NF or Neurofibromatosis.  A condition that occurs in 1/3000 people.  For reasons unknown, tumors grow internally and externally througout the body at the end of nerve cells.  As if that wasn't enough, NF also comes with risks for other health ailments, one being an extremely rare form of Leukemia called JMML.

Cole always sees the silver lining in things.  She was relieved to finally have some answers and get Liam the care and treatment he needed.  While there is no cure or viable treatment for NF, doctors closely monitor patients to make sure tumors don't develop in critical areas of the body.  Furthermore, NF children have significant development delays, so physical therapy and other treatments are required.  Since his diagnosis at 7 months, she's faithfully had him in treatment... and been an incredible example to her community about determination and fight.

If you live in Fort Worth, you've probably seen a #TeamLiam bumper sticker on the back of someone's car.  Maybe you've seen Cole and didn't know it.  She would be the one with a lovely British accent, wearing a bright blue "End NF" band around her wrist, while serving at some community event.  PTA.  Raising funds to find a cure for NF.  Organizing meals for neighbors in the hospital.  Or surprising friends with a birthday celebration.  She IS a light to her community.  And she is life to her family.

3 weeks ago, Liam started to run a fever and sleep all day.  Liam's babysitter called Cole at work concerned.  Cole left work, took Liam to the ER.  Liam's bloodwork has been watched since his NF diagnosis a year and a half ago.  White blood cells are closely watched, and for children his age, should be between 5,000 - 10,000.  Cole insisted doctors check his blood.  His white blood cell count was over 100,000.  Even though he'd been recently screened for Leukemia, they looked again.  Within a few hours, the diagnosis:  Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia, or JMML.  

Immediately, everything changed.  Based on Liam's declining health, Chemo treatment began almost immediately.  Neighbors and the community have rallied around Cole and Duran, helping pick up their girls from school and providing meals, while Cole stays at Liam's side, as he began Chemo treatments.  Duran is at the hospital everytime he's not at work or tending to the girls.   Then, last week, more upsetting news.  Because she cannot be in the office, Cole has been given an unpaid leave of absence.  Cole carries the family's health insurance.  She can keep health care coverage for her family, if she can pay for it out of pocket.

I recently visited with Cole and Liam to photograph his journey .  My friend, always upbeat and positive, couldn't hide the toll this is taking on her.  She wouldn't ever say it, because her sole focus is on being strength for her son, but she has moments of heartbreak.  Wondering how to pay out of pocket health care costs, when she doesn't have an income any longer.  Suffering "Mom guilt" because she's not with the girls.  Missing her husband.  Wanting desperately to take away Liam's pain.  Just to return to "normal" life.  But her priorities are exactly where they should be:  tending to her son and seeing him through the long journey of the next 10 months.  He's currently in isolation with Cole, because during Thanksgiving week, he will receive a stem cell transplant.  After the surgery, he will endure another lengthy period of isolation and recovery.  Cole won't leave his side.

On behalf of the Smith family's neighbors, family and friends, I am asking that you help this family fight Leukemia.  The initial fundraising goal is simply to help them stay afloat and pay out-of-pocket medical bills and cover their mortgage until Liam is out of recovery.  We want Cole to have the peace of mind to focus on caring for the needs of her son... and nothing else.  

Will you please join us in the fight for Liam's life?  Will you join #TeamLiam?

>  Visit the Team Liam Facebook page  for up to date progress on his treatment.

>  Join Team Liam Fighters  to stay up to date with local fundraisers and ways to support the Smith Family!

>  Visit this link to purchase a Team Liam shirt  (all proceeds will benefit the Smith family).

>  Younique make-up distributor, Misty McCrumby, is donating all proceeds to Team Liam for purchases made through this link .  

God bless you!

The Smith family, friends and community is extremely grateful for your prayers, love and support.  Thank you in advance for your generous donations.  

To learn more about their story and see this beautiful family, please visit this link .

    • $100 
    • 66 mos
  • Betty Thompson 
    • $400 
    • 68 mos
  • Sue Rudland 
    • $20 
    • 71 mos
  • Dennis Harris 
    • $20 
    • 71 mos
  • Provest Insurance Group 
    • $380 
    • 76 mos
See all


Kate Panza 
Fort Worth, TX