As the mother of three daughters, including a set of identical twins, Erin Dove was familiar with childhood bugs. But when her then-8-year-old daughter Lily was pale, throwing up, and starting to seem sluggish, Dove knew that this was more than a schoolyard cold.
After her pediatrician ran a slew of tests, Lily was told to wait with a nurse while the doctor spoke with her mother. On June 21, 2013, Lily was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She had leukemia cells in her blood and needed to begin aggressive chemotherapy immediately.
Throughout the active and maintenance phases of her treatments, one thing remained constant: the support of her sisters. Twin sister Bailey and older sister Maddie rallied around Lily, and with the help of family and friends, she completed her last treatment on Aug. 30.
However, this would not be the end of their cancer battle.
Back in March, while Lily was looking forward to completing chemo, the Doves noticed a familiar symptom. Only this time it was Bailey who seemed uncharacteristically pale. After her sister's diagnosis, doctors warned that there was a chance that her identical twin could get sick too, but the Dove's couldn't allow themselves to consider the possibility.
According to St. Baldrick's Foundation, about 1 in 285 children in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer before age 20, and acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the most common diagnosis.
"We knew the possibility was there," Dove told CNN. "But we just couldn't think about that at the time. We wouldn't have made it through otherwise."
Dove took Bailey to a clinic, explained her twin's history, and insisted that they run labs. When the results were in, the doctors suggested that Bailey wait with the nurses — just like they had with Lily — and Dove immediately knew. Bailey had leukemia and was at a higher risk because she is two years older than Lily was when she became sick.
Now that Lily's treatments have ended and Bailey's are just beginning, the Doves are fighting to maintain a sense of normalcy for the girls while keeping well-wishers updated through their family Facebook page. "We do our best to do things we did before, but with modifications," Dove said. "It's the smallest things, too, like staying up for the fireworks on the Fourth of July, getaways that are close to home, having sleepovers for their friends when they feel well enough. All of these are things that others see as normal, but they're also things that we took for granted before."