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Community rallies around Anders family as baby Lillian battles cancer

“Sometimes superheroes reside in the hearts of small children fighting big battles.”
With their banner hoisted and adorned in pink shirts, the Praying For Lillian supporters made their presence known for seven-week-old Lillian Virginia Anders during the Relay For Life of Unicoi County on Saturday, June 13.
Lillian, the daughter of Lucas and Kristin Anders, was diagnosed in May with neuroblastoma, a cancer that affects the adrenal gland, neck, chest or spinal cord. Since her diagnosis, Lillian has been receiving treatment in Cincinnati.
“It has been a progression,” Lucas said on Saturday. “Right now, it’s neuroblastoma. But last week we sort of got some mixed results. It is expected to get worse before it gets better.
“Clinically, she’s looking good, but now they’re looking at doing a biopsy around early next week because they’re thinking it may be a different form of blastoma.”
Last year was the first time he took part in the Relay event, Lucas said. The agricultural instructor at Unicoi County High School recalled family members being affected by cancer while he was at a young age.
“We knew people that were affected,” Anders added about last year. “My grandfather passed away from cancer, my dad’s only sister had cancer … but it was at an early age, so it wasn’t that close to home and really, I probably didn’t put as much thought into it as here walking around.”
From the luminaria to other events, the family had the opportunity to receive support from county residents.
“First of all, we want to thank the community for all the prayers and the support,” Lucas said. “The support has been overwhelming. I encourage anyone who isn’t in church or isn’t that connected to the community, to get connected. You’ll never know who has your back in your time of trouble.”
From a visit from Director of Schools John English and Tommy Clouse, at the high school on his first day, to team captain Whitney Evely helping to create shirts for Lillian, the outreach has been felt since day one of Lillian’s battle.
“When I heard over 250 shirts have been sold, it was unreal,” he said. “I knew nothing about it. From South Florida to Illinois … the online aspect of everything has been crazy. Just the amount of people that have stopped by to say that churches in Bristol are praying for you … churches from Georgia … cards from almost the entire Southeast. When you can sit down and read over a hundred people online saying ‘we’re praying for you,’ you don’t even realize that many people care about you. It has truly been a blessing.”
While Lucas fought the battle locally, Kristen has been with Lillian in Ohio. While not being able to make it in person, Michael Peterson walked the entire lap with Lillian’s team using Facetime to allow Kristen to see the support from the hospital.
“Definitely have to give a shoutout to Apple for that,” Lucas said with a laugh. “But that was an encouragement for her to see the support from everyone and being able to take it in. She’s up there fighting the battle and we’re here fighting, too. Since this happened, our oldest daughter graduated preschool, and my daughter had a dance recital that my wife had to miss, but we Facetimed everything. We do it quite often. Even though she wasn’t here, she was able to be part of it. It wasn’t just still photos.”
Whether it was Saturday’s event, the online support and everything in between, the last two months continued to show that Unicoi County bands together to fight back cancer, Lucas said.
“You don’t know who will impact you when you go through life,” he added. “So, take advantage of the opportunities you get. No matter what care we get, it’s up to the Lord above. I’ve had a pretty positive outlook on everything, but walking that lap, the reality sets in. Seeing the support really helps you get through it all.”