Carmel residents Lindsay and Toby Ohmer saw their worlds change forever July 14.
It was a busy Friday. Lindsay, who is pregnant with child No. 2, went to a morning ultrasound and found out the couple is having another daughter.
For two days, their 2-year-old daughter, Marley, had been complaining about back pain, even waking up in the middle of the night screaming. So they took her to their pediatrician, thinking it might be a bladder infection, hoping to handle it before the weekend began.
“I thought I’m probably overreacting, but it’s a Friday so might as well,” Lindsay said.
The doctor took some X-rays and they drove home. No serious worries went through their minds.
But a few hours later, the doctor called.
“Our pediatrician told us to go down to Riley, ‘Oh and pack a bag because you’ll probably be there overnight,’” Lindsay said. “We were supposed to have the gender reveal party that night with our parents. Well, that didn’t happen.”
After multiple tests at Riley, it was clear that Marley had cancer.
Their 2-year-old girl, who loves playing with dogs, making crafts and memorizing her favorite children’s books, has a mass the size of a potato in her abdomen close to her kidneys.
“You didn’t eat a potato, did you?” Toby asked his daughter as she played with a plastic Mr. Potato Head toy.
“No, I didn’t eat a ta-ta-to,” Marley said, mispronouncing the word like most 2-year-olds would. She’s unaware of exactly what’s going on medically.
“So that’s the size of this mass,” Toby said. “We’re fortunate that it’s treatable.”
Marley has been diagnosed with a stage 3 neuroblastoma. The prognosis looks favorable and right now chemotherapy is the anticipated treatment. The Ohmers are confident surgery isn’t necessary.
Nonetheless, for a family with another child on the way, even a favorable cancer diagnosis takes its toll. Especially when Lindsay couldn’t even hug her own daughter since she was “officially radioactive” from her medication.
“Dad got lots of snuggles that night,” she said.
In the months since, Marley has lost her hair but hasn’t lost her positive outlook. The toddler loves going into the playroom and petting the hospital dog named Murphy.
But what she’s become known for is her red cowgirl boots. She’ll march around in bright boots, her second pair since she outgrew her original pair from when she was about 6 months old.
“She wore her boots around the hospital nonstop, and people got to know her by her boots,” she said. “And so we came up with Marley’s March.”
Marley’s March is a Facebook page the Ohmers started to communicate with family and friends about Marley’s progress. Marley wears a shirt that says,“Marley’s March” on the front. The back reads “Never underestimate a girl and her red boots.”
Page likes soared to more than 650 and people asked how they could help the young mom and dad who grew up in Carmel.
“It’s been pretty incredible,” said Toby, a 35-year-old sales representative. “Every post gets thousands of views. We’re pretty lucky to have such an awesome support system.”
Show of support
Friends of the Ohmers decided to organize a fundraiser for Marley’s March since Lindsay, a 33-year-old realtor, hasn’t been able to work as much since the cancer diagnosis. Pizzology donated 10 percent of its Oct. 4 sales to Marley’s March. Customers lined up all day to support the Ohmers.
“People were waiting 45 minutes for food since they were so busy, and people didn’t mind,” Lindsay said. “I just thought we’d go there and eat, and we didn’t know how big it would be. The people who willingly waited an hour and a half just to sit down and eat. It blew my mind. It’s apparently the busiest night Pizzology has ever had.”
A second fundraiser is planned for Dec. 1 through Circle City Athletics, where Toby has played kickball for six years. CCA is organizing its 4th Annual Santa Stumble Pub Crawl, where attendees visit several bars in Broad Ripple, including Mineshaft, Average Joes, Broad Ripple Tavern, Old Pros Table, Rock Lobster and Brickhouse Piano Bar. A portion of the proceeds from each ticket will go to a nonprofit that the attendee chooses, with Marley’s March being one of the options.
The Ohmers are appreciative of the fundraiser, but they likely won’t attend. Dec. 1 is their due date.
“I’ll be either having a baby or really pregnant,” Lindsay said, laughing.