September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and there are ways you can take action for kids right here in the Valley who are battling this disease.

Their lives changed seemingly in an instant. A Valley couple became one of the nearly 16,000 families in this country that hear the words, “your child has cancer,” every single year.

But from the very beginning, they decided to document what was happening – all the highs and lows – in hopes of lighting the way for others.

Through the magic of memories saved on their cell phones, Kendyll and Preston McFarland of Ahwatukee are reminded of the battle that was just beginning.

“He woke up with a big lump and a mass on his side,” explains Kendyll. “We thought we were checking in for constipation, so we thought he just needed to go to the bathroom and we’d be on our way.”

But it turned out to be something much more serious.

It was Easter Weekend 2022. The McFarlands had plans to gather around the dinner table with family, but instead, Kendyll and Preston would be gathering around a hospital bed as their then 2-year-old son, Nash, began the fight of his life.

“It hits you like a ton of bricks, right?” explains Preston. “You’re in immense shock your gut falls down through the floor.”

Scans showed that 75% of Nash’s liver was covered in tumors. A biopsy would reveal it was a cancer called, “Hepatoblastoma.” Doctors told the McFarlands they needed to act quickly, pumping Nash’s little body with chemo to shrink his tumors.

In the midst of the madness, the McFarlands made a split-second decision that would later prove to be a different kind of lifeline.

They decided to take photos and videos of every treatment, every hospital stay, every milestone – documenting the journey from the very beginning.

“We could do this alone or keep it private or be vulnerable and share our story,” says Kendyll.

And that’s exactly what they did.

There were accomplishments and joyous occasions — and plenty of dark moments as well, like when Nash’s first two liver transplants did not work out.

“We still think of those families,” explains Kendyll. “Because they lost their baby that night, even if our son didn’t get the liver, so you know, you think of all those families.”

Another piece of the puzzle that made it difficult was having to live in isolation with the family divided; there were times when Nash was undergoing treatment and had to stay at PCH for weeks at a time –family and friends could not visit except for Kendyll and Preston — and that even meant Nash’s big brother and closest ally, Knox, had to stay away.

“One day, he asked me, ‘Mama, why aren’t we a family anymore?’ And it’s hard to explain to a 3-year-old, you know?”

But thankfully, the two wouldn’t stay separated for long – once again, Kendyll and Preston’s cell phones captured the sweet reunion.

And thankfully, there is now a lot more to document.

“By opening up our story from the beginning and being vulnerable, we just had so much love and support,” says Kendyll. “It’s truly Nash’s story — we just get to be the keepers of it right now.”

Nash was diagnosed with cancer at 21 months old and is now a thriving, cancer-free 3-year-old boy.

He and his family are trying to help Phoenix Children’s raise money and awareness for their “Step Up Stop Cancer” initiative.

When you donate to Phoenix Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, your contribution will be doubled for the month of September.

For more information, click here.