Local mom ‘relentlessly’ fighting for Eli
by Staff Writer
It started as every parent’s worst nightmare.
In 2009, Phil and Anne Roe’s baby boy, Eli, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. They were told that it would take more than three years of treatments to stop the cancer.
And even then, there were no guarantees of success.
Right away, family friend Johnna Watson, herself a wife and mother of two, immediately got involved. The Watsons and the Roes attend Mecklenburg Community Church. Watson began recruiting volunteers to help the Roes, doing whatever she could to help out.
Today, Eli is 4, turning 5 in April.
He’s within months of ending his treatments, and his prognosis is good.
And Watson is a contender for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Woman of the Year, a title given on the local and national levels to top fund-raisers.
Her campaign kicked off last week, and is dedicated to the boy whom she helped: “Team Eli.”
Upcoming fundraising events include an April 15 gold tournament at Skybrook Golf Club, an April 22 workout at Cross Fit Vitality in Concord and the sale of “Relentless for Eli” T-shirts and bracelets.
The man and woman who raise the most for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society this spring will get the title. Cancer patients like Eli will reap the rewards: more money for research, which Anne said is the key to saving lives.
Watson, a part-time dental hygienist and full-time mom, said helping Eli made her realize how many lives are affected by cancer.
“Every person diagnosed with blood cancer is someone’s precious child, parent, relative or friend,” Watson said. “The funds raised for blood cancer research and patient services are funds raised for our friends and our family.”
Still, she said, though she’s campaigning to be Woman of the Year, she hopes people will see that anyone can make a difference.
“I am an ordinary person with an ordinary life who has been given this extraordinary challenge,” Watson said. “Having a healthy family is a blessing I can no longer take for granted.”
The Roes are working with friends to help make the events a success. If his health permits, Eli will be in attendance along with his brother, Henry, Phil Roe said. He said the last three years have been “the most rewarding of my life,” and said his faith in God and the help of volunteers like Watson have made that happen.
“Too often the urgent gets in the way of the important,” he said. “Johnna … and her team of volunteers will inspire others to find what is important to them and relentlessly fight for it.”
Anne Roe praised the volunteers’ gift of their free time and their talents.
“They are working parents and juggle all of life’s normal demands,” she said. “However, they also recognize that cancer shows no mercy.”
“We hope to rally our friends, family, neighbors and professional networks to support (Watson) and Team Eli.”
From the time he was diagnosed, Anne Roe said, the family has asked people to be “Relentless for Eli” in prayer and encouragement. Watson’s help to the family came in the form of organization.
She coordinated a “care calendar” so that volunteers could help with rides to childcare, yard work and any other needs the Roes might have.
“We have never felt alone,” Anne Roe said.
And, as she supports her friend’s campaign, Anne Roe knows well the benefits of cancer research. She tells how her son was able to participate in a clinical trial, which allowed Eli’s bone marrow to be more carefully tested for signs of leukemia.
She said Eli’s treatment boosted his chances of survival from 45 percent to 85 percent. With more funds for research, further advances will be possible.
If she is chosen as a Woman of the Year, Watson will help with the 2013 national fundraising campaign for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
By inspiring others, Watson said, she can make a difference in the lives of many other families.
“Before Eli’s diagnosis, I didn’t really know how to selflessly serve others,” she said.
“The Roes and the families I have served with have shown me how it is done.
Want to get involved?
For more information visit www.
relentlessforeli.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/johnnaforteameli.