Lola Wiley is a typical 7-year-old: She loves to draw and play with dolls. She likes to shoot off rockets with her dad, sheriff’s deputy Tim Wiley. Her best friend is her older sister Avery.
But when a 104-degree fever kept Lola from enjoying a Saturday morning, her dad knew something was terribly wrong.
“I had never ever seen her asleep at 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning,” he said. Lola had what appeared to be a cold for about two days. “I woke her up and took her temperature. Then I threw my shoes on and put her in the truck and went straight to the urgent care.”
Wiley said he was still thinking it was a bad case of the flu when urgent care staff directed him and Lola to the emergency room at Sutter Coast Hospital on April 12. Later that day Lola was on a flight to Children’s Hospital and Research Center in Oakland where doctors confirmed that she had acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
In some ways, Lola is lucky, Wiley said. Because she’s so young she has a good chance of surviving leukemia. Doctors caught it before it had a chance to spread to her spinal cord, which would have made treating it more difficult. But Lola still has 2½ years of chemotherapy ahead of her, Wiley said.
“She’ll be 10 years old when she’s done with this,” he said, adding that Lola will be out of school for about six months. “Leukemia is cancer of the blood. It might already be gone, but the trick to keeping it away is extremely high levels of chemo.”
Lola spent about a week and a half during her first stay at Children’s Hospital. Because the chemo obliterated his daughter’s immune system, Wiley said he and his wife had to completely sterilize their home when Lola was discharged on April 23.
But Lola and her mom, Maia Mello, were flown back to Oakland two days later due to a viral infection. Doctors monitored Lola’s blood, kept her in isolation and pumped her full of antibiotics to keep infection at bay, Mello said.
Lola was discharged again from the hospital last week, but on Monday she and Maia were on their way back to the Bay Area for Lola’s latest chemo treatment.
“It’s kind of like a roller coaster,” Mello said. “We have the chemo and she’ll be down for a few days and then her body will start rebounding and she’ll start coming back. (She’ll start) getting more energy and being more Lola.”
On the days when she has enough energy, Lola will walk up and down the hospital’s corridors, Mello said. During her initial stay, Lola visited the hospital’s playroom, but because of the chemotherapy she’s not allowed to leave her room.
Instead, a teacher working for the hospital’s school program will visit Lola and help her keep on track with her lessons back home, Mello said. Lola also receives help from her 2nd grade teacher at Gasquet’s Mountain School, Mary Lawrence, Mello said.
“The school program here works with whatever materials, whatever subjects, the kids are working on and they’ll have supplemental work if the kids haven’t received the work,” she said. “Lola can take it back to her teacher at Mountain School for credit.”
Since Lola’s diagnosis, the community has stepped in to help with her family’s medical and travel expenses. An account has been set up at U.S. Bank for community members who want to donate funds in Lola’s name.
Green wristbands emblazoned with “Until Lola Gets Better” are also on sale at Crescent Uniforms and Supplies and at Java Hut.
Even people from as far away as Elko, Nev., are chipping in. Wiley said members of the Elko Police Department have raised funds for cancer research in Lola’s honor.
“I’ve never met these guys (and) they all shaved their heads to do a little fundraiser to support Lola,” he said. “They sent us a picture of it with a sign that said ‘until Lola’s better.’”
Anyone who wants to help Lola Wiley’s family can make monetary donations in her name at any U.S. Bank location.