Member Spotlight: Finding community in the rarest of places

Texeira familyAt first, Christy Texeira (B.S. ’00) felt a small sense of relief when the doctor diagnosed her five-year-old-daughter, Hailey, with aplastic anemia.

“There’s no good diagnosis when your child is ill, but all we were thinking at the time was ‘not leukemia,’” Christy explained. “We quickly realized that relief was out of ignorance.”

Aplastic anemia is form of bone marrow failure that occurs when the body stops producing new blood cells. For a young, healthy girl like Hailey, the chances of being diagnosed with it are about one in a million.

“This wasn’t the only narrow margin we faced,” Christy said.

Even with an 85% rate of success, the first course of treatment failed. The next option was a bone marrow transplant. There was only a 25% chance Hailey’s two-year-old sister, Emily, would be a sibling match. Miraculously, she was. The grueling process of a transplant was a success and 10 years later Haley isn’t in remission. She is fully cured.

It was a fortunate ending, and when it was over, Christy began thinking about the online journal she’d used to cope, chronicle, and connect with people during the two-year ordeal. Some who read her entries said she should turn it into a book.

“I’ve never been a writer. For the past 20 years all I’ve done is run my interior design business,” she said. “I was flattered, but didn’t think it would happen because who would want to read about our experience with a sick child?”

But then Christy began reflecting on the overwhelming support and generosity the Fort Collins community showed her family when Hailey was sick.

Texeira family on the riverfront
Texeira family on the riverfront

Students, faculty, and staff at Shephardson Elementary School rooted for the girls every step of the way. The animal-loving sisters were granted a personalized tour of Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. The CSU cross-country team rallied with banners of support at meets and regularly checked in with the family. Literal strangers appeared willing to help. Christy realized that was the story she needed to tell.

“I didn’t want it to be just about the medical diagnosis, but about how people really want to take care of each other,” Christy said. “I wanted to show that, no matter you’re going through in life, there are people who want to help. That’s the beauty we found in our experience, and that’s what I wanted to share.”

book cover
Pink Elephants

It took four years of reviewing, writing, and re-writing, and in 2021 Christy published Pink Elephants: A Mother’s Story of Faith, Strength, and Perseverance.

The title is a reference to a figurine Hailey’s doctor brought to her after returning from a trip to India. Pink elephants with raised trunks, the doctor explained, are a symbol of good luck and would come to represent the entire experience.

“Elephants are pack animals that travel together, mourn together, and, with raised and trumpeting trunks, celebrate together,” Christy said. “For as many harsh situations that came our way, we were lucky in the end and we always had our pack of elephants that surrounded and looked after us.”

The book, she added, is just one way she hopes to use her story to inspire others. There’s also been blood drives, organ donation sign ups, and coordinating community service events. Anything she and her family can do to give back to the community that gave them so much.

“People really do want to help, and if we learned anything it’s that you have to be open to receiving help and then offering help when you can,” she concluded. “Nobody can make it in life alone.”

Pink Elephants: A Mother’s Story of Faith, Strength, and Perseverance can be purchased locally at Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins, or by visiting https://pinkelephantsbook.com/.