#CalebsCrew supports University student’s brother in fight against Leukemia

Caleb Miller vacations in Holland, Mich., last summer, before being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

By Raymond Sobczak

Waking up on Feb. 15 for Zach Miller, sophomore in Business, should have been like any other day — get up, shower and head to class. After class, he was supposed to go to a meeting, but instead, he received a text message from his 17-year-old brother Caleb. 

“The doctors here think I have Leukemia,” the text message said.

Zach was immediately in shock; he felt the news came from left field, because it was so unexpected. 

“The first thing that ran through my mind was, ‘Is he going to be alive for the next year? Will he be with us at the next family gathering? Is he going to make it to his next birthday?’” Zach said. 

On Feb. 15, Caleb Miller, a junior at Seneca High School in Seneca, Ill., was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Two days later, Caleb underwent surgery to put a chemotherapy port on the right side of his torso. He then had his first chemotherapy treatment on the same day.

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    “The recovery process is going to take about three years and three months, and he will hopefully be cancer free. But if it had to happen to anyone, Caleb would be the one to get through it,” Zach said. 

    Since discovering the news, Zach went home to see his brother and spend time with him.  

    “It seemed like nothing was wrong with him,” Zach said. “He’s one of the strongest and most resilient kids I know. He’s always happy and upbeat. That’s how Caleb has always been though.”

    The treatment is going to be very aggressive for the first seven months, and Caleb will not be able to go to school during the process because of his weak immune system, Zach said. 

    “The thing that hit me the hardest was that it would take (about three) years,” Caleb said. “And the hardest part of it all is that I won’t be able to go anywhere for the first seven months.”

    However, Caleb will be able to go back to school for his senior year, and the treatment should not affect any of his college plans or hopes of becoming an auto mechanic, Caleb said. 

    At the moment, Caleb does not feel sick. Rather, he feels energetic, he said. He is two weeks ahead of schedule in the recovery process and is in remission. As far as the doctors can see, the cancer is no longer developing and is no longer in his system. However, the recovery road is still going to be challenging and difficult to ensure the cancer will not return, but Caleb said the support of his family and friends has been helping him through it. 

    “All five of my siblings are spread out, so the way they supported me was by starting a ‘Caleb’s Crew’ Facebook page,” Caleb said.

    Since the creation of the Facebook page, the support spread to Twitter and other social media sites. Eileen, Caleb’s mother, started a blog, ‘Calebscrew.weebly.com.’

    “I started the blog so everyone knew what was going on with Caleb, so they could be up-to-date on everything from chemo appointments to how he’s feeling,” Eileen said.

    When he first heard of the Facebook page, Caleb thought maybe a few people would comment or like it. However, he was overwhelmed by the number of likes the page has acquired — just over 600. The family is also thankful for all of the support and love they have received from everyone, especially from the doctors, nurses and staff at the hospitals, Eileen said. 

    “We’ve been through a lot as a family, and anything that we have accomplished and overcome has only made us stronger,” Caleb said. “My mom, grandma and my mom’s boyfriend have just been so helpful with everything, and my siblings have done a great job of building a support system, especially with the ‘Caleb’s Crew’ page.”

    As a member of the University’s chapter of Acacia, Phi Gamma Nu and Illinois Business Consulting, Zach has not had a lot of free time to go home and visit Caleb as often as he would like. 

    “I feel bad that I haven’t been able to go back home more,” Zach said. “I’ll get a text from Caleb asking if I’m coming home this weekend, and I feel bad telling him that I can’t because I have meetings or other obligations. I want him to know that even though I’m not there as much as I would like to be, that I’m always thinking about him and worried about him.”

    It has been harder for Zach to focus on all of his different activities, but he appreciates all the support from his friends and people he does not even know who are showing their support. 

    “The Facebook group has been a great way to show that even though our family is so far spread out, we can still build a support system for Caleb,” Zach said. “It really shows a sense of community.”

    Raymond can be reached at [email protected].