South Georgia family finds refuge from chaos of childhood cancer diagnosis

Tripp and Kimberly Lasseter have a long history with the Ronald McDonald House near Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston.

This has been their home away from home for half of Tripp's life, since they arrived here from Adel, Georgia, 200 miles away, unsure of what the future held.

"The very first night we got transferred to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, we came via ambulance from South Georgia," Kimberly Lasseter remembers.

Tripp was just 6 at the time.

"I didn't know what was going on,  I didn't really understand it," he says.

Three weeks after his little sister Blake was born, Tripp underwent a CT scan that revealed a tumor on his adrenal gland. 

Within hours, Kimberly and her husband Gabe would be told Tripp had neuroblastoma, a cancer of the nerve tissue.

"We only packed an overnight back," she remembers.  "So, to come here and find out your son has stage cancer. It's stage four.  The worst case it could be.  It's from head to his toes, in his bones.  He has a tumor, and we are about to start chemo tomorrow."

By the next night, the Lasseters were settling in to the Ronald McDonald House, their home base as Tripp began his grueling cancer treatment at Children's Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center not far away.

He would need chemotherapy, surgery, two bone marrow transplants, then radiation and immunotherapy.   

His mother, a nurse, stayed with him at the hospital, while her mother-in-law took care of Blake at the Ronald McDonald House.

"I was able to go to the Ronald McDonald House with the baby and just take a few hours, just bond with her, take a breath, regroup, and then go back to the hospital," Kimberly Lasseter says.

Little boy wearing Atlanta Braves hat and shirt hugs his younger sister.

Tripp and Blake Lasseter

With time, Darren Adkins, the night manager at Ronald McDonald House, became a friend,

"Kimberly was a great mom," Adkins says.  "She was going through a lot. So, when she would come back from the hospital, I would definitely try to make her laugh.  Because if she started crying, I was going to cry.  And, nobody wants to see that, okay?"

Two years after his diagnosis, Tripp's cancer came back.

But, in 2019, his scans showed no evidence of disease.

"We just found out two months that he is now considered a survivor, because he's so far out from his initial diagnosis, that we now move to (scans) every 6 months, and then we'll move to every year," his mother says.

Kimberly Lasseter says it feels good to come back to the Ronald McDonald House.

"We have so many happy memories here," she says.  "Sad ones, too.  But this has a lot of happy memories.  This is the first place we got a chance as a family to bond, this is the place."