Marvin “Hap” Hersko
Nancy J. Kane
Lois Ann Kreft
Joanna M. Rhodes
At the time, Adam Fischer didn’t really understand what his leukemia diagnosis years ago meant—he was only 10 years old.
He remembered his mom breaking down. His first question was “Am I gonna die?”
Such anxiety and uncertainty are understandable, especially for most of those around the table with Adam and his wife Heather when they signed to buy their new Evansville home Friday in Janesville.
Also present were Melani and Andy Phillips of Evansville, parents of Harlow, a 6-year-old girl who has spent most of the last two years of her young life fighting off neuroblastoma.
Andy Phillips spearheaded the volunteer effort to build the house their family friends, the Fischers, agreed to buy.
Just making it to Friday seemed seriously in doubt at times. And yet in hindsight, it felt inevitable, like it was always meant to be.
That’s how it felt for the Phillipses. Harlow, now cancer-free, played in the 1,429-square-foot home Friday evening.
It also felt meant to be for Kyle Matthews, executive director of BeatNb, a neuroblastoma research and awareness organization, who remembered skeptically thinking “Sure you are” after hearing Andy’s ambitious pitch to donate the sale proceeds from the house, which was built with donated materials and labor.
And it was like that for the Fischers. The couple had to postpone their home-buying aspirations after “life happened,” Heather said. As their holding pattern unfolded, the home stayed on the market longer than Andy thought it would.
“It all worked out,” Andy said. “I’m glad it stayed on the market because you couldn’t ask for a better family and a better person to buy it than Adam and Heather.”
Adam and Heather decided to buy the home in September, which is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. It’s also the same month of what they call Adam’s second birthday, the anniversary of him getting his bone marrow transplant—Sept. 1, 1998.
That episode had its own serendipity. The bone marrow donor was Adam’s brother—a perfect match that Heather called “kind of unheard of.”
“It’s sort of weird how those things work in life,” Adam said.
Harlow got to sign the $150,000 check—that was physically bigger than she was—to BeatNb. Matthews, who first met Harlow in summer 2018, said that money can go toward paying the cost for 15 kids to undergo the same $10,000 two-year drug trial Harlow did.
Harlow, Melani said, is doing “really well.” She’s cancer free and taking a maintenance drug to prevent a recurrence. She will have her one-year post-treatment scan in February.
After Adam, Heather and Andy signed the papers to complete the deal, everyone got ready to leave the Brabazon Title Team office in Janesville and head to Evansville. Melani caught herself after she told the group to meet at the “Harlow house.” The new owners would give the house a new identity, right?
“It will always be the Harlow house,” Heather said.
Upon arriving at 359 Hickory St., Adam almost parked on the street before Melani waved at him to park in his new driveway.
Move-in for the Fischers started Friday night. While there was some celebrating, Andy also went over logistics about the house. It officially belonged to the Fischers now.
“This house was built out of love, and it sits on the foundation of hope and courage and strength,” Heather said. “That’s what we want to fill it with.”
Matthews, the BeatNb director who lost his first son to the same cancer Harlow had, played with the kindergartner, who wore a pink jacket and a silver JoJo Siwa bow.
For Matthews, Friday felt “astounding.” Heather felt “excited” and “overwhelmed.” Melani said, “It’s amazing.”
Andy was “emotional,” seeing the idea they hatched in December 2017 reach this point after almost two years of work on the house and cancer treatment for his young daughter.
But every moment of fear and doubt took them all to the same empty kitchen Friday.
“I feel like it was meant to be,” Adam said.