A personal update

A personal update

I’d highly encourage you to listen to the audio on this one. This message is best delivered by me. The audio above is from me, not some speech-to-text service.

Whoever said “raising kids is the hardest but best thing ever” should get an award. I’ve come back to that phrase hundreds of times since I became a dad 6 years ago. I have two daughters, 6 and 3, and they like to prove to me that I’m not in control.

My first daughter was born at 28 weeks, which is 12 weeks early. She was born at 2lbs 2oz (.96kg) and had to stay in the hospital for 70 days before we could bring her home. She came so early, I hadn’t really prepped anything yet. We didn’t do Lamaze classes, I hadn’t prepped the house, I didn’t have a crib, I was far from being ready to take care of a human. But she decided that 28 weeks was enough time and thrust me into parenthood the hard way. Luckily, she has no long-term adverse effects from being born so early - which apparently is super rare. She’s a normal kid who you’d never know could fit in the palm of my hand when she was born.

My other daughter is crazy. I like to say she’s a proper cowgirl. She wrestles my Australian Shepherd, picks up the turkeys, and is an all-around outdoor powerhouse. She’s usually covered in bruises from head to toe from either roughhousing or gymnastics. A few weeks ago we started to notice more bruises than normal. Unexplained bruises. Big ones. At first, we shrugged it off, thinking she was playing really hard, but they wouldn’t go away.

We took her to the pediatrician two weeks ago on Monday. The doctor said it was a bit more bruising than she’d expect and told us to go have blood drawn. So we went and did that and were told to wait for the results. On Tuesday, we got a call from the doctor who said her blood counts were critically low and to go to the emergency room. We went to a children’s hospital down the road where my daughter had more blood drawn. The doctors there said we had to stay overnight and the diagnosis was unclear but wasn’t looking good.

On Wednesday, a new doctor showed up in our room. This doctor was an oncologist. She gave us the hard news that my 3-year-old has leukemia. Specifically, she has a rare form of it called AML type m7 (you can Google that on your own, I am intentionally not doing it). Later that day, we transferred to a different hospital that specializes in pediatric cancer and of course, had more blood drawn. Thursday was a big day - my daughter had surgery to have a central line put in so they could stop poking her with needles. She also had a bone marrow biopsy and a lumbar puncture to check for leukemia in her spinal fluid. By Friday, we started our first round of chemotherapy.

You can’t imagine what that week was like for my family. I can’t even come close to describing it. All I’ll say is that it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Today, she’s gone through 10 days of chemo drugs and we’re waiting for her body to “bottom out” and bounce back. Luckily, she has responded incredibly well to all the treatment and remains in high spirits. She continues to assure me every day that “I’m the best daddy ever in the whole world.”

Despite responding exceptionally well to treatment, this type of leukemia means we’re in for a long haul at the hospital. We’ll probably be there for 6-8 months with mental breaks at home for 3-7 days every 6 weeks. All of our routines have changed. Everything we knew and were comfortable with has gone out the window. But we’re pushing through.

What this means for me

Everything that I’ve been doing has stopped for the time being. My podcast, blog posts, newsletter, conference talks, guest appearances, social media, and community outreach for Believe in Serverless are taking a break while I focus on taking care of my family. I have to give special thanks to Andres Moreno, Ben Pyle, and Michael Liendo for volunteering to keep the Serverless Picks of the Week newsletter alive while I take a break. If you see some bumps in the road with the newsletter in the coming weeks, I’ve had to make some changes to my automations to make it work for other authors, so please cut me/them some slack and don’t unsubscribe while we work through everything.

As for my work at Momento, I’ll be on medical leave for the time being. When I was talking to Khawaja Shams on the phone to give him an update, he insisted I go on leave and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Khawaja - you are an amazing person and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work with you every day. From my entire family: thank you.

For the farm - I honestly don’t know. My gardens are in shambles, the pasture is about 4 feet tall, and the birds haven’t seen me in days. I love the animals, but my daughter is under strict orders not to be around them during her visits home. My current thought is to rehome my ducks but keep the turkeys, chickens, and goats. The ducks are cool - but they’re a lot of work. Work I can’t afford to give right now.

What you can do

I’ve been asked 100 times in the past two weeks what people can do to help. Honestly, this is hard for me. Both my wife and I have personalities that generally don’t like to accept help (I think it’s because we’re both firstborn children). I know all these offers for help are coming from a good place, and I couldn’t be more grateful. So I’m approaching requests for help with open arms.

As for what you can do, please continue engaging with the community. Share what you’re working on, do something live, or help someone with a project. I might not be too vocal on social media, but I’m probably lurking. Seeing you all help each other makes me happy.

You can also reach out and check in. Send me a DM or a text message. I might take a bit to get back to you but I do my best to respond to all messages that come my way. Tag me in stuff. Draw me out from lurking every now and then by asking a question or sharing something I made that helped you in some way 😊

If you’re looking for something tangible, you can contribute to her GoFundMe or support my podcast (it will come back, I swear). As impersonal as money sounds, it’s really the best way to help. Cancer treatment is expensive, and so are all the other things that are popping up unexpectedly.

What’s next?

Treatment! I’m focusing on giving both of my kids a happy summer. I’m balancing the time spent with each of them since my oldest can’t spend the night in the hospital. We’re going to go swimming and play and do what normal 6-year-olds like then head over to the hospital to join sister and make her day bright.

No news is good news from me. We’re looking for as many boring hospital days as possible. You might see me publish a blog or post something on social media every now and then. I’m still exceptionally curious about the new tech coming out and hopefully have more time than I know what to do with. Time will tell. My daughter’s hair will fall out in the next couple of weeks as a result of the chemo. If she wants solidarity, that means my hair is going too. I’ll post pictures.

Thank you for taking the time to read (and hopefully listen) to my update. This was hard for me to share but the community has only ever been loving and encouraging, and I could use a little bit of both of those right now. Please feel free to reach out on any platform. Like I said earlier, I’ll do my best to respond to everyone. If for whatever reason you can’t get a hold of me, contact Andres. He’ll know what to do.

Happy coding.


Allen Helton

About Allen

Allen is an AWS Serverless Hero passionate about educating others about the cloud, serverless, and APIs. He is the host of the Ready, Set, Cloud podcast and creator of this website. More about Allen.

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