The Lilli Owl
Since day one, owls have been an integral part of Lilli’s care. Whether it was simply a plush stuffed animal to cuddle when she was having trouble falling asleep in the hospital, or a symbol of strength and hope when her cancer returned, the owl will forever represent the calm among the chaos of cancer for the Hicks family.
Because cancer patients have body temperatures continuously on the flux, we’ve designed the Lilli Owl using acrylic thread, a soft and cozy material with a snug fit. These socks have an athletic feel that will embrace your feet with comfort whether you are working out or relaxing.
Before the evening of December 13th, 2014, Lilli Hicks was living the normal life of a 12-year-old with her family, growing up in Greensboro, North Carolina. But on this night, with her favorite stuffed owl by her side, she was diagnosed with ALM Leukemia. While her parents, Travis and Lou Anne, were numb as they attempted to process everything, Lilli worried about missing school on Monday.
Three days later, Lilli began intense chemotherapy. Over the course of the following months, Lilli would receive her treatment in-patient for 28 days at a time, go home for a few days break, and begin this process over. Lilli had to go through this process 4 different times. After four cycles and many sleepless hospital nights clutching to that stuffed owl, Lilli went into remission on March 28, 2014. Lilli was strong enough to beat her disease, but she would have to become stronger.
Eleven months later, on February 26th , 2016, Lilli’s bloodwork showed signs that the leukemia had returned and a bone marrow biopsy confirmed with 89% blasts of immature blood forming cells in her bloodstream (normal is 5% or less). After an intense work-up period with two more cycles of chemotherapy and every hospital test in the book, Lilli was admitted to Duke Children’s hospital on April 26th, 2016. Enduring three days of chemotherapy at a time, following by two days of radiation, and then beginning the process over again, Lilli had to spend her days in quarantine as the intensity of the treatment weakened her immune system to near-nothing. Finally, on May 23rd, 2016, Lilli received her transplant: cord blood donated by two different undisclosed donors.
Lilli was kept in-patient for about 6 weeks until she was strong enough to be transferred to Durham’s Ronald McDonald House on July 5th, 2016. Even here, Lilli had to receive round-the-clock care. She was surviving by feeding tube and tolerating never-ending blood labs and medicine pumps. Working through the graph vs. host complications, Lilli was finally able to return to her home in Greensboro on August 29th, 2016. Free of the feeding tube and finally stable, Lilli was delighted to be out of the hospital and back in her own house.
Today, Lilli remains under “house arrest,” meaning she can only be at home, outside in open air, or in a hospital, until her immune system becomes stronger and her graft versus host problems are fully resolved.
She is able to pursue her schoolwork online and is skyping in to her classes at her old school. Meanwhile, the Hicks family is attempting to recover from the financial costs of almost three years of hospital bills. Even with insurance picking up the larger portion of the tab, the family is still left trying to pay down a hefty balance. While both parents have returned to work to try and make up ground, finances remain a stressor for the family.
Throughout this three-year journey, Lilli’s friends and family have worked to lift Lilli’s spirits by sending stuffed owls and bearing the hashtag #lillistronger. As simple as it is, these symbols have been a source of hope and happiness for the family on Lilli’s best and worst of days in the hospital.