Lexi Frost is like any normal sophomore girl at Lake Stevens High School. Like any normal 16-year-old girl, that is, who beat cancer twice as a child, and then was raised by a family comprised equally of medical professionals and psychotic wakeboarders. Which is to say --- that like the rest of her family --- Lexi Frost is exceedingly above average.
She’s small, pretty and well spoken. She likes English, and hates math. She thinks it’s vaguely amusing that her older brother Brennan, a senior at LSHS, duct-taped her to telephone pole on Davies Road with a “Help” sign stuck to her midsection and posed, grinning beside her as passing motorists snapped pictures.
On occasion, Lexi has styled Brennan’s signature mane of hair with her girlfriends, or painted his toenails when he’s sleeping. They’ve always had a good relationship, she says, and she will definitely miss him after he graduates. She doesn’t even mind that fact that nobody seems to call her by name any more: lately, she’s just been Frosty’s little sister.
Brennan and Lexi Frost have a bond deeper than most siblings. When Lexi was four years old, she was dying, and with the help and support of the entire family, Brennan literally saved her life.Halftime at Oak Harbor, three weeks ago.
The Viking football team is gathered together, ready for a withering tirade from Coach Tom Tri, a speech befitting their halftime deficit. The players huddle close together, amphitheater style. In the far corner of the locker room, at the coach’s back and separated from the team are two or three injured players, seeking treatment from medical staff. Next to the injured dudes, helmet aside, head in hands, staring off into the distance, is senior running back Brennan Frost.
Aside from his lean, sculpted frame, Frost doesn’t look the part of varsity hero. Frost has the long flowing locks of Braveheart, the thousand yard stare of a combat veteran and the friendly, what-me-worry demeanor of a big wave surfer.
As Frost sits apart, evidently pondering other matters, Coach Tri thunders through halftime adjustments, and takes mental stock of the players he needs to address. First of which is star running back Brennan Frost.
“Frosty?!!! Where the heck are you.”
“Here coach,” replies the longhaired fellow in back, still staring off into the distance.
“Are you injured Frosty?”
“No. (other than the torn ACL he is attempting to play on, obviously)”
“Then what the heck are you doing over there?”
“I have no idea coach,” Frost said, grabbing his helmet and jogging across the room to join the team.
From any other player, this candid answer may have provoked, at best, a sarcastic response. Or maybe one of those old tricks our parents used to play on us – “You have no idea! I’ll show you ‘no idea’. I have NO IDEA why OAK HARBOR is mopping the floor with us, do you?”
But not for Frosty. Everyone knows he is a bit of a free spirit. And free-spiritedness is encouraged, if you’re averaging nearly 10 yards per carry, leading the team in touchdowns and leaving your torn ligaments strewn across the playing field. The coach launched right back into his speech, not missing a beat.Battle for Survival.
Lexi Frost was 22 months old when she battled cancer for the first time. Lexi’s mom Michelle, a nurse by training, noticed a strange mark on her neck and took her in for tests. When the results came back, the family was shaken. What else would you expect when a family is told that their healthy two year old daughter has tested positive for Leukemia?
Brennan and Lexi Frost in the hospital when they were children shortly after Brennan gave
Lexi a succesful bone marrow transplant to save her life.
The family sought treatment, and soon the disease went into remission. It appeared that Lexi was out of the woods.
Less than two years later, the cancer was back, stronger than ever.
In order to confront the disease with a united front, the Frost family moved south – Lexi to the Fred Hutchinson medical center and the rest of the family to the Seattle Marriott. Brennan and Riley enrolled in school at the Hutch, in a program for relatives of patients.
Despite the situation, the Frost family carried on.
“My parents tried to keep life as normal as possible – as normal as you can when you’re living in a hotel and your little sister is dying of cancer,” Brennan recalls.
Lexi had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a cancer of white blood cells that can be fatal in as soon as a few weeks if left untreated – hence the term ‘acute’. The survival rate has improved from zero four decades ago to around 75 percent today, thanks in large part to the science of the bone marrow transplant.
Seventy five percent sounds pretty good until you flip it around and realize that even today, one out of four children die of this disease, regardless of treatment.
Unless a bone marrow donor was found, things were not looking good for little Lexi and the Frost family. A Record Performance
As far as high school football goes, it was all on the line. The Vikings led by three, but needed a first down to run out the clock and hold off the rival Panthers. It was the last regular season game, it was senior night, it was the last game ever to be played at LSHS Stadium, and a playoff berth hung in the balance.
The Viking quarterback took the snap and pitched left, Brennan Frost caught the ball in stride and burst through the line of scrimmage before cutting towards the sideline, violently bucking through an attempted tackle.
Frost gained the edge and headed up field, outracing several Panther defenders for a 33-yard touchdown as time expired. On that play, Frost set the all time LSHS single game yardage mark, and led the Vikings to the playoffs. Not bad for a kid who’d never even seen a football game until two years prior. A Donor is Found
“Being that young, I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t realize that this was something I could die from. I just wanted to go back home and play,” Lexi recalls.
“I was sick. I think in total, I lost all my hair four different times. My mom was just out of her head with fear and every emotion possible. Everyone was.”
The entire Frost family was tested for a bone marrow match. Finding a match is no sure bet, though. A sibling is the most likely candidate for a match, and even then the odds are no better than one in four.
The results came back, however, and six year old Brennan was a near spot-on match. It was decided: Brennan’s bone marrow would battle Lexi’s cancer.
Lexi doesn’t remember too much from the experience, other than the fact that her brother would sleep on the floor of her hospital room after her treatments. Brennan, two years older, has a clearer memory of the transplant process.
Brennan remembers sitting in the waiting room, and then crying as he put on the surgical gown (“I was really scared… I went and laid on the table, looked at my mom and passed out.”).
Doctors used “six giant ass needles” to pull marrow from Brennan’s lower back. When Brennan awoke from the procedure, he was paralyzed from the neck down for six hours. “It was horrifying. I woke up and was like ‘What the hell is this?’”.
Shortly thereafter, the effects wore off and he regained use of his body. Brennan was taken to his sister’s room. Brennan’s bone marrow seeped from a bag hung from an IV pole, draining into his sister. The transplant took, and Lexi gradually recovered. Soon, the Frost family was back in Lake Stevens.Next week: From scrub to star – how Brennan Frost etched his name in the Viking record books.For more on Brennan Frost, including highlights and photos.