Leland and his mom, Marisa, left their small-town home in Pennsylvania and arrived in Memphis in October 2014, just days after Leland was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
"I honestly thought we’d be in a hotel type setting for the entire time we were down here,”Marisa said. “That was all I thought about. A few days after we arrived we received a call that we were being moved to ‘RMH’ and I had no idea what that even meant."
With no idea what to expect, Marisa packed up what little stuff they had brought with them and prepared to move in to their new “home-away-from-home.”
“Our first few hours at Ronald McDonald House of Memphis were a little overwhelming; just trying to get in and getting settled,” she said. “Soon we began to notice how helpful everyone was. If you have a lost look on your face, the staff and other families will stop and offer to help you or just check and see if something is wrong. Everyone is so very helpful, you never feel like you are burdening anybody by asking a question.”
“Ronald McDonald House is where Leland is happiest in Memphis,” she said. “It’s more of a home setting. I like that I’m able to cook for him even if he takes two bites and says, ‘No, I don’t want it.’”
While Marisa misses her daughter and two sons that are still living in Pennsylvania, she has developed what she and a close group of families call their “framily.”
“The only thing we have in common is pediatric cancer really, but that’s enough,” she said. “We can vent to each other. If one of us needs a quick break, everyone pitches in to help. We’ve already made plans to go and visit people in their hometown when we’re all done with treatment and we’re settled back into the old normal life.”
“Ronald McDonald House of Memphis does more for the families here than I know how to verbalize,” Marisa said. “What this place does and what this place means to the families that are staying here goes above and beyond a lot of charities that I’ve looked into. It’s amazing to know that I don’t have to worry about anything other than Leland right now and everyone that donates helps make that possible.”
After months of treatment, Leland is showing positive signs and Marisa is able to breathe a small sigh of relief. Her hope is that they are able to go home for good soon and that she can go back to only having to worry about normal parenting problems, but until then she will continue to embrace her new found “framily.”