A dose of “Unicorn Juice” makes her feel better at a time when a little magic is needed.
Fort Mill resident Wren Jansen was a “normal, happy 3-year-old” before being recently diagnosed with leukemia, said her mother Brandi Jansen.
Wren was running fevers and suffering from prolonged leg pain, to the point of not being able to walk. Though blood work consistently came back normal, Jansen, a former school nurse, said she knew something wasn’t right.
A scan at Levine’s Children’s Hospital of Wren’s leg showed that she had leukemia in her bone marrow, causing it to painfully push out, Jansen said. They also discovered Wren had three growths in her skull and she was formally diagnosed with pre-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow.
“The puzzle pieces came together,” she said.
Jansen and her husband Steve are a safety-conscious couple, always looking out for anything that could cause their children harm. However, they have a saying:
“It’s the random thing on a Tuesday afternoon that will get you,” Brandi said.
Some of the first words Jansen told her husband after learning the news were “’This is our Tuesday afternoon,’” she said.
“The Earth literally moved out from under us, but from there you don’t have a choice, you just move forward,” Jansen said.
Wren was in the hospital for eight days receiving chemotherapy following her diagnosis. The growths significantly shrunk and her leg function started improving.
Steve said he is thankful the Carolinas Healthcare System trusted his wife’s feeling.
“Brandi had that mom’s intuition that something wasn’t right with Wren,” he said. “They didn’t dismiss her.”
When needed, Wren receives blood transfusions, or as she calls it, “Unicorn Juice.” Unicorns and butterflies are a recurring theme in her household – along with the color purple.
During her daughter’s time of need, Jansen discovered there was a critical blood shortage, an effort her neighbor Theresa Jones took to heart. She set up a Red Cross Hope for Wren blood drive at the Baxter Village YMCA that collected 94 units of donated blood.
“She just ran with it,” Jansen said.
It grew so large, people were waiting hours in line and some had to be turned away, she said.
The blood drive is just one way the Jansen family is turning hardship into a way to help others.
Last month, Wren’s Village, her team with the Baxter Trails CureSearch Hike founded by Harlan's Heroes, raised more than $18,000 in four weeks, with proceeds helping to find a cure for pediatric cancers, Jansen said.
A charity bartender night at the grapevine Wine Bar in Baxter Village raised $5,000, she said.
“The only way we can reconcile our little girl being sick is that we can help other people with this,” Jansen said. “It’s something bigger than just her being sick, because otherwise what is it all for?”
The Jansens have received tons of support from neighbors, family, friends and strangers in the community, Jansen said. Sugar Creek Elementary School, where she was a nurse, held a Shark Strong for Wren day, raising $850 for Levine’s.
“It’s been overwhelming and amazing,” she said.
Wren is now past the first stage of treatment, induction, which aims to remove signs of the cancer from bone marrow samples.
“It was the best news we could get,” Jansen said. “We are starting at zero. Now the real work starts at keeping it that way.”
Wren is continuing chemotherapy and the Jansens’ lives are now marked by a series of treatments over the next two-and-a-half years, but that hasn’t slowed their drive to help others or get their daughter back to health.
“We are going to beat this horrible thing, but in the process big things can be done,” Jansen said.