For the Love of Taylor Swift: Leukemia? Shake It Off!

Hi. Meet William the Conqueror.


William was born extra-ordinary. He has bright blue eyes, great dance moves and a contagious smile.

He also has Down Syndrome and leukemia.

William Erkkila 007

William the Conqueror has a lot to overcome. There are some very rough days.


About a month into his cancer treatment William was inconsolable. In a desperate effort to ease his sickness and suffering, I turned on music to get him dancing. Many tunes got him moving but we soon realized that nothing stopped his crying like Taylor Swift.

When we would turn on other songs, he would shake his hand to let us know only Taylor would do.

During one surgery he came out of anesthesia too soon and a nurse quickly got Shake It Off to play on a phone. It kept him quiet until the procedure could be completed. Soon after that, a typical night shift included dance parties, always starting with Shake It Off. The staff at UNC quickly shook off all pride for their little man who no longer had his ginger “hella-good hair”. Dance parties are now a tradition.

On those blessed days we can be at home as a complete family of four, we have dance parties in the living room. The normally shy four year old brother beams and dances as he sings the opening lines to Taylor’s songs. For a moment there is no medicine, no hair loss, no nausea and no struggle of being apart. There is just dancing, joy and celebration of another month survived.

Many mothers write to Taylor Swift asking her to remain a ‘good’ role model for their daughters and to maintain a certain persona. Her interviews have given me the impression that she would rather encourage others to discover who they are and to be that proudly. I am raising a son who is different. He is extraordinary. He is made to inspire rather than to fit in.There will be much to overcome and to shake off. I would rather him bravely be who God intended him to be than fit in.

As I watch my child struggle and fight, I watch him smile, dance and shake through it. As a mother, I often feel helpless and weary from being unable to soothe my child.  I am exceptionally thankful for the joy William receives and spreads as we scroll down the T-Swift playlists.

Be different, Taylor. Be yourself. Inspire others, but most of all inspire yourself. You have an open invitation in our home to come on over. We can shake, shake, shake. Until then, I look forward to our final dance party with the hospital staff when we finally shake off leukemia.

Thank you for your prayers and support. If we can reach Taylor Swift simply to thank her for the difference she has made to my Cancer Conqueror, I would appreciate it.

With love,

A Thankful Mother of a 2 Year Old Swifty


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