**UPDATE: This episode received a 2024 DIGITAL HEALTH AWARD for Media / Publications / Audio category **

Episode 36: A Brother's Gift with Wills and Esther Levy

Wills Levy was only five years old when he donated bone marrow to his one year old brother, Andrew. On this episode, Wills and his mom Esther talk about Andrew’s cancer experience and the impact on their family, how Wills’ cells gave the family extra time with Andrew to create memories, and how Andrew continues to guide the way they live, even after his death in 2016. This beautiful conversation highlights the power of a mother’s intuition, and a brother’s mission to squeeze every opportunity out of life knowing that time is never guaranteed.

Note to listeners from Team Manta Cares: This podcast was recorded the day before the devastating wildfires in Lahaina where the Levys reside and therefore does not reference the grief and trauma experienced by Wills’ classmates and the entire Maui community. Our hearts are with the Levys and their Maui family.

  • Esther Levy

    Esther Levy is a mom of four children between the ages of 6 and 14 years old – three on earth and one who resides in her heart. In 2014 her life turned upside down when her third child Andrew was diagnosed with AMKL (Leukemia) at the age of 14 months. She left her career in pediatric nutrition and as a wellness coach to be by Andrew’s side and to care for her family. She is passionate about her family, fitness, and nutrition. Esther and her husband helped start a music therapy program for hospitalized children at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, and she is in the process of writing a book. She recently launched an online community entitled, “The Lost Sibling Project” to help empower bereaved siblings to process their grief. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in Human Biology from Stanford and a MSc with distinction in Public Health and Nutrition from the University of Westminster in London. She currently lives with her family in Maui.

  • William "Wills" Levy

    Wills Levy is a freshman at Seabury Hall in Maui where he serves as the freshmen class president and spends every extra minute outside school playing soccer, traveling (to play soccer), and cooking/eating spicy food. For the last 4+ years he's served on the junior board of the Children's Cancer Therapy Development Institute - a cause he has passionately supported since he donated his bone marrow to his brother Andrew. His younger sisters awarded him the "world's best big brother" trophy. His parents agree.

Watch the video of our episode on YouTube

  • 8 minutes:

    Wills on extra time with Andrew after donating his bone marrow.

    One thing I will add is that a lot of my memories that I still remember with Andrew came during this period from after the bone marrow transplant. Like we got to go to Hawaii on a vacation and there were all these memories that were made that I still have. Some of the most important and meaningful moments of my life with Andrew happened during that time. So it felt very good to do the bone marrow transplant and start that period of time.

  • 15 minutes:

    Esther on a mother’s intuition.

    I think that as a parent, you know when something's wrong. I think that often we're like, ‘well that person's a doctor, that person's an expert. So we have to listen to them. We have to listen because they know the best.’ And I've learned from this experience that you really have to trust your intuition. I feel like I knew what was going on. I didn't know it was cancer because that wasn't in my vocabulary, but I knew something was terribly wrong. And I found my voice through that experience. Now I will always speak up for what I feel is right. I think I was much more meek. I mean, society, I can go into a long thing around how women are taught to defer to authority and to defer to the experts. I don't do that anymore. I think through this process, most or all big decisions were perfectly clear to me in an instant. Which was, it almost feels like, a superpower. But any big medical decision from there on, I knew what my answer was immediately. I did not need to go into a long thought process. There were some really hard decisions we needed to make with Andrew, and I didn't even have to take a moment to think, ‘Esther, listen to your intuition.’ I just knew.

  • 59 minutes:

    What Andrew continues to teach the family about living life.

    I do not look back with regrets at all. Everything that we experienced with Andrew, I don't look back at the what ifs and the regrets because it's just what happened, and it's the way life was. We did the best that we could, and we're proud of the life that we gave Andrew. It was my husband and my 17th anniversary yesterday, and my five-year-old daughter turned to me and gave me a hug. She said, ‘Thank  for giving me life, Mom.’ And I had this reflective moment of like, oh my gosh, I don't know if she'll listen to this one day, but, if Andrew had not died, I don't know if she would be here. We might have another child, but I don't know if she would be her. But I don't look back and say, oh well, because Andrew died, Cori came into life, so everything's great. You know, I just look at it like that it is what it is. And I'm grateful for what we have. And I'm grateful for what we had with Andrew. And life is hard and it's complicated. But I'm proud of where we are right now.

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