Jamie and Tim Ankeny went on their very first date a few years ago; it was at Disneyland. Like so many people, that destination has so many meanings. For scores of adults, it’s a place their parents took them as children. For Tim and Jamie, it’s where their story started and where their family memories would build. The thing about Disney, there is more to do there than just amusement park rides. There’s a small community that gathers there regularly to see local bands that play at the Tomorrowland Terrace. Over the years, Tim and Jamie have revisited Tomorrowland to see Jamie’s high school friends Vince Walker and Brian Klemm perform in their band Suburban Legends. This band formed in ’98 and hail from Huntington Beach, but are beloved worldwide. They called it a career not too long ago, we’ll circle back to that in a bit.
Over the last few years, Tim and Jaime started a family. Whenever they can, they take their children to check out SL. Their youngest is a 2-year old named Taylor, and their oldest is a 5-year-old named Carter. Technically, he’s 5 ½! Like most good parents, Tim and Jamie love seeing their children happy and smiling. Music is a big part of that process. As a family, they listen to just about all genres under the sun. As the kids got to know SL, the band and their fans got to know the kids. As for the locals, it’s become part of the culture that the OC Ska Community is like family. As the kids were drawn to the scene, the scene was drawn to Carter and Taylor. It’s a testament to the nature of SL and all the other local ska bands and their fans.
This story is about Carter’s ongoing journey. He is a kid that loves life, he is one of the friendliest children you’ll ever meet. He loves music, and sports… he really loves sports. He loves the Denver Broncos, Lakers and every baseball team around. Although, since his first T-Ball team was the Royals, he is partial to the Kansas City Royals. It can’t go without mention that Carter is also an honorary member of the Chapman University baseball team. These days, he is fixated on watching the Olympics and roots for Team USA. You can hear him nightly chanting “USA, USA, USA” in front of the TV! He also loves the swimmers, especially Michael Phelps and Katie Ledeky.
It all sounds pretty normal, right? Truth-be-told, it’s been a long road for Carter. At a time when parents should be watching their kids be kids, Tim and Jamie received news no parent ever wants to hear. On October 2, 2015, they were informed their son was diagnosed with an affliction called Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (“ALL” ). As you can imagine, it shook their foundation. In receiving this kind of news, the first two questions all parents have is … what is that? And, what is the prognosis for survival?
ALL is sneaky…. it’s an acute form of leukemia, or cancer of the white blood cells, characterized by the overproduction and accumulation of cancerous, immature white blood cells, known as lymphoblasts. It progresses rapidly, replacing healthy cells that produce functional lymphocytes with leukemia cells that can't mature properly. The leukemia cells are carried in the bloodstream to other organs and tissues, including the brain, liver, lymph nodes and testes. Untreated, they continue to grow and divide. The growing, dividing and spreading of these leukemia cells may result in a number of possible symptoms. If treated aggressively, the survival rate is greater than 90%; so there is every reason for Tim and Jaime to be optimistic.
There’s nothing any of us wouldn’t do to save a child. Understanding the disease is paramount in wrapping your arms around the challenges to come. The first thing you should know is that ALL can occur at any age. Treatment varies depending on the patient. Treatments for ALL consists of chemotherapy, chemotherapy with stem cell transplant, radiation therapy and/or immunotherapy. Additionally, patients with ALL may also receive maintenance chemotherapy. This less intensive course of chemotherapy is used to reduce the risk of the disease recurring after treatment has finished. Since treatments vary depending on a variety of factors, the medical advice on what a child can or can’t do while under treatment can vary. The lack of continuity is frustrating for any parent dealing with a child that has this disease. That’s the unfortunate reality of this disease. For anyone afflicted with ALL, there’s another consideration. The 3 years of treatment notwithstanding any possible long-term side effects from the chemotherapy.
Finding out your child has a disease can be devastating. Luckily, Tim and Jaime have a great support system consisting of family, friends, and some strangers. The toughest part of dealing with the needs of a child with ALL is accepting the fact that as a parent, you can’t do it all and you may need help. The good news is there are people out there that are ready to help. Identifying what exactly you need help with is probably one of the biggest challenges for parents. Not knowing what you don’t know can drive any of us crazy; this disease is no different, it can do a few different things.
When you speak with Tim and Jamie, you feel their pride when they speak about their children. However, you can also feel their pain when they talk about some of the challenges like the treatments, and how they physically impact Carter negatively. All parents can relate to that. For Jamie, it saddens her when Carter has to get his lumbar puncture, which is best described as a spinal tap. He can’t eat prior to the treatment, and he is so fatigued afterwards, it is heart breaking to see a child go through that. It could drive a parent mad seeing their child is such distress. Then again, what’s inspiring is what Tim told me about Carter. Although he is 5 ½, he is one of the strongest and most courageous people he has ever known. Carter never complains about the treatments; and what is telling about his character is that he never feels sorry for himself that he has this affliction. He just gets it done and moves on so he can be with his family and friends.. It takes a special person to go through this type of journey and have the positive outlook that he has demonstrated. People have taken notice, not just of what great parents Carter has, but what an inspiring person Carter is.
So let’s circle back to Suburban Legends. The Ankeny family has become friends of some of the OC ska bands, and their fans that attend their shows. One band that emerged from that set of friends was Hooray For Our Side. They too are becoming local Ska Community favorites. Once the word was out that Carter was stricken with ALL, both SL and Hooray For Our Side offered help in any way needed. They even started a social media campaign. The response has been nothing short of amazing. People from all walks of life, local residents, police, and just your every- day John and Jane Doe from coast-to-coast and around the world have offered help and words of encouragement. It’s amazing how in this world of 24/7 news, which typically thrives on bad news… people can be genuinely be moved by the story of a good person. People can surprise you with their compassion, kindness and humanity to a child. As a result of the affection for Carter, SL and Hooray For Our Side teamed up with OC Ska icon Starpool to put on a benefit show. Starpool consists of former members of Save Ferris and former co-lead singer of No Doubt.
Inasmuch as Starpool may not be as close to Carter as SL or Hooray For Our Side, these guys all have children, and it’s no surprise they stepped up to contribute. The bands have gathered their guitars, drums, black-and-white checkered shoes and will do what families do…. They’re going help with Carter’s medical bills. The show is August 17th at the Yost Theatre in Santa Ana, and the show is called Carterpalooza.
It’s refreshing to see what good people can do for good people. For example, just last week at the Vans Warped Tour, Carter was on stage with a local OC Ska legend, Reel Big Fish. For the OC Ska Community, the Ankeny’s are family, and they are supporting them as such.
What I took from all this was the message Tim and Jaime had for other parents going through this same experience. Their words weren’t specific to Carter, or his journey. Instead, it was a message of awareness, that these type of diseases are out there and adversely impact children. They also want people to know it’s not the end of the world. With the support of family, friends, and even strangers, even a certain Olympic gold medalist whose photo appears at the bottom of this article… every family has a very good chance of getting through ALL. Just know that good people are out there, give them a chance to help. In the OC, help comes in the form of Carterpalooza. Come to the show, in addition to supporting Carter, you get to see three really good bands.
In addition to all the amazing ska bands supporting Carter, even Michael Phelps is down for #TeamCarter:
Carterpalooza happens tomorrow at the Yost Theater featuring performances from Suburban Legends, Starpool and Hooray For Ourside. 7 p.m. $20-$150, all ages. For full details, click here. To purchase tickets, click here.