04/24/07 — In loving memory of Cavion

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In loving memory of Cavion

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on April 24, 2007 1:54 PM

Danielle Holloway remembers when her 5-year-old son, Cavion, told her not to cry -- that he would be OK.

She thinks about the day that started out with a bloody nose and ended with a shocking diagnosis.

She longs for the moments they spent smiling, before cancer and leukemia became a part of their daily vocabulary.

She hugs his favorite pillow and thinks about the day he died -- Sept. 28, 2005 -- and remembers how he used to comfort her -- during the chemotherapy sessions and surgeries.

Danielle Holloway with Cavion Picture

News-Argus/Mitch Loeber

Staff Sgt. Danielle Holloway holds a drawing of her late son Cavion done by her husband while the 5-year-old was undergoing treatment for leukemia in the hospital. Danielle is organizing a bone marrow drive to honor Cavion’s memory.

Cavion is his mother's inspiration to help others with leukemia find a bone marrow match -- anything, she said, to prevent another parent from experiencing the horror of losing a child.

"He was a perfectly healthy 5-year-old," the Air Force staff sergeant said. "One day he was just outside playing in the yard and got a bloody nose. It wouldn't stop bleeding."

She and her husband, Billy, didn't want to take any chances. They drove to a nearby hospital and waited in the emergency room for six hours until all of Cavion's test results had come back.

"We lived in New Mexico, which is a high-altitude area and we just figured he was a young kid playing outside a lot in a dry area," Danielle said. "It turned out to be leukemia."

The news was almost unbelievable, she added.

"When they used the word cancer, I said to them, 'You just don't understand. My mother is dying right now, my best friend. If you're not certain, please don't use those words,'" she said. "The doctor said, 'I would never lie to you.' He was crying. He said 'I have two kids of my own. I can't imagine.' He immediately felt our pain."

Cavion was rushed to a bigger hospital later that night and seen by a pediatric oncologist who determined the boy would need to spend the next day receiving chemotherapy.

"It was almost too much to handle at once," Danielle said. "It was like this just wasn't happening."

Cavion, though, stayed positive.

"He was who we gained our strength from, both my husband and I," she added. "He was very optimistic. Adults tend to be negative and kids are just the opposite. The doctors would come in with a look on their face and you could tell it was bad news and he would look at his dad and I and tell us not to cry, that he was going to be fine."

For the next two years, the boy inspired others, too. His mother started planning a bone marrow drive on Offutt Air Force Base.

"The goal that I had was to start the drive while he was looking for a match," Danielle said. "I didn't realize what actually went into making a drive happen. I thought it was just a bunch of people lining up to give a sample."

She learned, though, that the task was more daunting than she had originally believed it would be.

Cavion died a month before the work he inspired came to fruition.

"By the time he was done, his body looked like a battleground -- scars everywhere," Danielle said. "He had been through more in his short life than somebody who is 90 years old and always made the best of it."

His death was devastating to his parents, but they found comfort in the more than 600 people who came out the following month -- on a day named by the city "Cavion Jamik Holloway Day" -- to register their bone marrow sample.

"To date, that I know of, three of them have been contacted as matches," Danielle said. "To me, there is no greater gift that I can give to this world than to know that another mother might be saved from feeling what I feel every day."

Her work didn't stop there.

The following year, while deployed at a base in Southwest Asia, she organized another drive.

"A lot of people thought I was crazy," she said. "Here we are at war, what do you mean? You're going to stop the wartime operations to hold a drive? I said, 'No, we're not. We are going to continue our wartime operations and hold a drive during that."

Her fellow airmen got behind the effort and from the desert, Danielle saw more than 700 register.

"Before we even returned we had a gentleman get contacted," she said. "There was somebody waiting in this world for that match. He was there. I think of my son and although it keeps his legacy on, I feel like he's not dying in vain."

The Holloways live in Wayne County these days -- Danielle a member of the 4th Fighter Wing's 333rd "Lancers."

Another base, another drive, she said.

On May 10, all active duty military, dependents, retirees under 60 years old, Department of Defense civilians and national guardsmen can register their bone marrow sample at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base -- a simple cotton swap through the mouth, Danielle said.

And maybe, one of those who show up will be a match and save a life.

Cavion's mother recently made a license plate -- 'I miss you C.J.' is printed on the metal.

In her eyes, it symbolizes her drive to help parents avoid the sorrow she feels.

"No parent should ever be faced with the option to write their child a note on a license plate instead of their lunchbox," Danielle said. "I used to do that all the time. It's still kind of incomprehensible that I'll never get to do that again."

And on her good days, she will flip through the pictures of Cavion dressed in a Halloween costume -- IVs hanging from his body, that ever-optimistic smile on his face.

"He was just absolutely amazing," she said. "Now people who haven't met him know him through me, and it makes me feel good because I know he changed the world. He really did."