After a diagnosis turns family upside down, assistance is provided for whirlwind treatment

A flash decision had to be made by the parents of 3-year-old Jordyn Gourley: radiation treatments close to home or proton therapy more than 1,000 miles away.

“We were told by another cancer family,‘You only get one chance to do this right, don’t ever look back and have any regrets,’” said Jordyn’s mother, Kim. “So I said, ‘We’re moving to Texas.’”

Two days after Jordyn’s diagnosis, they planned to hop on a plane to the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center in Houston, Texas.

Up until Labor Day 2010, Jordyn usually slept quite soundly. However, after several consecutive sleepless nights, concerned parents Kim and Eric took her to the doctor several times trying to find out what was wrong.

That Labor Day, Kim brought Jordyn to the emergency room after noticing that her eye was slightly turned. It was then that doctors discovered the mass, called a rhabdomyosarcoma, or rhabdo, for short.

Kim and Eric hadn’t known people close to them with cancer so the first thing they did was research. They were anxious to learn more about what would help their little girl.

“We quickly learned that proton therapy would be a huge benefit to someone with rhabdo, especially a growing child,”Kim said.

Jordyn’s sarcoma extended into her nasal passages and brain. Doctors deemed proton therapy ideal because it would target the tumor and essentially stop there, limiting neurological effects, Kim said.

Kim put the wheels in motion with the proton therapy center at MD Anderson and was soon informed by the team there that Jordyn was an ideal candidate for proton therapy.

“That’s when Compass to Carecame in,” Kim said. Compass to Care is a nonprofit organization that helps families around the United States when they are faced with the devastating news that their child has been diagnosed with cancer. The organization takes care of the logistics so each family can focus on their child and the treatment their child needs.

Compass to Care purchased plane tickets forJordyn and Kim the very next day and made all the living arrangements for thethree months of treatment far from their Iowa home. It covered travel costs and housing at the Ronald McDonald house and provided spending money for a rental car and food while in Houston.

“I had so many other things I had to sort out in my mind,” Kim said. “Taking away the burden of booking everything was amazing support that we needed right then and there. It was seamless.”

Jordyn’s brothers, Gannon, 4, and Cohen, less than a year old, stayed home with Eric and Kim’s father, who moved in to help out. “It was a tough pill to swallow, knowing we only had two days to prepare for three months apart,” Kim said.

Phone calls and Skype were a common pastime to keep the family connected, but the time spent apart took its toll.

“Jordyn, no matter how annoyed she was with her brothers, would cry at night saying, ‘I miss them. I miss my dad. I don’t want to be away from them,’” Kim said.

“Compass to Care helped bring Eric and the boys down to Texas for an entire week so we could spend time together,” Kim said. With the difficult journey ahead, it was a relief.

Jordyn has had clear scans since September 2011, and Kim is thankful life is almost back to normal for the Gourley family.