Christmas lost: Leukemia steals holiday from Carthage family

John Hacker

It has been anything but a merry Christmas or happy holidays for one Carthage family.

For Robert Taylor, 32, his wife, Jennifer, 29, and their 21-month-old son Levi, December started with Robert under the cloud of possible layoffs at his job, and is finishing with him in a St. Louis hospital battling a deadly form of leukemia.

Robert Taylor was diagnosed with leukemia on Christmas Day, after feeling ill for more than a week.

Jennifer Taylor described the holiday and the preceding few weeks in one word.

"Devastating," Jennifer Taylor said. "Especially on Christmas. We have a little 21-month-old boy and he is with my mom and dad. Robert won't be able to see his son for at least month because of his illness. It's because of the sicknesses little children can bring to the hospital and Robert's immune system will be down."

Family friend Michael Wells said things started going bad for the family on Dec. 7, when Robert Taylor was laid off from his job at Flex-o-lators in Joplin. Then on Dec. 9 and 10, the ice storm knocked out power to their home, forcing the Taylors to stay with the Wells for a few days.

"We're actually good friends of the Taylor family, we do things every weekend together, we baby-sit each others' kids," Wells said. "They lost power during the ice storm and they had stayed with us during that week. He had been sick and all the doctors kept saying it was tonsillitis."

For two weeks, doctors continued to say Robert had tonsillitis, but on Christmas eve, when Jennifer saw bruising on Robert's body that didn't make sense, she rushed him to McCune-Brooks Hospital in Carthage, where the news went from bad to worse.

"When the bruising happened, we took him to the ER and we were there on Christmas day," Jennifer Taylor said. "That's the day we finally found out. We found out it was most likely leukemia and they flew him to St. Louis. I stayed in Carthage to at least spend a little bit of Christmas with our son. It was a very long drive to St. Louis, me and his mom and dad drove up there, it was just a very scary day."

Friends have banded together, started a benefit fund in the family's name and are asking the community to help.

"He has strong moral values, he's a hard worker," Wells said. "He's done without to provide for his family, he helps anybody. Anytime I've ever needed help, he's dropped everything and come running to help me. They go to church with us, they're just spectacular people, any time you need help they're there."

People interested in donating to the fund can go to any Arvest Bank location and donate to the Taylor Benefit fund in care of Jennifer Taylor.

Cards or letters can be mailed to Taylor Benefit, P.O. Box 69, Carthage, Mo., 64836.

Carthage Press