Aidan Reed is fighting a monstrous disease. But he's getting a lot of help.
The Kansas boy, 5, has acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and to keep his mind off his illness, he draws monsters and sells his unique art to offset the costs of his treatment.
It was actually his aunt's idea to set up Aid for Aidan, where more than 4,000 of his colorful drawings have been sold online in the past two weeks.
At $12 a piece, the zany monsters have raised $50,000 for the family's medical expenses.
"It's overwhelming and unbelievable," dad Wiley Reed of Clearwater, Kan., said. "We had some unpleasant things happen this year that jaded us a bit about human nature, but this has totally turned that on its ear."
Aidan has been obsessed with monsters since he first visited a costume store at the age of 2.
"When my wife took him to Halloween Express, he didn't want to leave," Reed, 31, said. "It was kind of weird, but he was mesmerized."
Aidan draws his own creatures and dresses up as fictional characters such as Michael Myers of the cult film "Halloween," even though he has never even seen a horror flick.
Click here to look at or purchase Aidan's drawings.
"He's a real goofball and jokester and he never breaks out of character until he takes the mask off," his father said. "So it's his little hobby."
Aidan likes wolves and zombies and "scary clowns and aliens, but nothing prepared him or his family for the cancer diagnosis that came Sept. 13.
He had developed a cough and couldn't kick it, despite two rounds of antibiotics. Then his mother Katie Reed, 27, noticed unusual bruises that lingered.
Alarmed, she took him to the hospital where a nurse drew blood and turned to her and said, "I am not legally able to give a diagnosis, but this looks an awful lot like leukemia."
That same day, on the way to get a bone marrow test, Katie and Wiley Reed were convinced their son was going to die.
ALL Is Getting Better, if Not Well Yet
"Everything I knew about leukemia was real bleak," Reed said he thought on the 30-mile drive from work to the hospital. "I knew it was a horrible word and a horrible situation.
"Quite honestly, we thought it was a death sentence for our son for about five hours," he said.
Later, they would learn that ALL has a 90 percent cure rate.
"It was a water mark for us," Reed said. "It may sound weird, but we knew there would be a lot of unpleasant shots and spinal taps, but compared to not living, that moment gave us a brighter perspective. It made us understand how blessed we were."
Aidan's leukemia, ALL, is the most common of all forms of the disease in children. It represents 23 percent of all cancer diagnoses and affects about 1 in 29,000 children each year in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Treatment began immediately. Aidan was in the hospital for more than a week, with the first phase of chemotherapy, spinal taps and surgery to implant an intravenous catheter under the skin on the chest to deliver medication and fluids.
The aggressive chemotherapy floored normally active Aidan. He lay on the couch for hours with no appetite, according to his father. Then he got slammed with infections that postponed the second phase of chemotherapy, which has now just begun.
At one point, his catheter had to be surgically ripped from his chest, without any anesthesia, because of a rapidly progressing infection.
But now, Reed said, "He seems a lot better and more energetic."
Meanwhile, Reed's sister, Mandi Ostein from Illinois, was feeling the distance and wanted to help. She began fundraising for the family. "It was the only thing she could do," he said.
The family had insurance, but they still needed help.
The cancer diagnosis came on top of Katie's pregnancy and the Sept. 28 birth of Aidan's brother Amry.
Reed, who works as a structural on-the-job trainer for aircraft company Cessna, had to take time off under the Family Leave Act, which has reduced his pay by 25 percent.
'Halloween' Comes to Life for Aiden
There were other financial pressures and the family cut out all frivolous spending so Katie Reed could stay at home with the two children.
"We burned through our savings, and because I was out of work, there were lost wages," he said.
The bills are not all in yet, but the Reeds calculate the deductibles alone are more than $1,000.
But none of that was on their mind when Aidan was at his worst. Aid for Aidan was "happening behind the scenes."
"We weren't thinking about our finances at all as people were gathering around to give us support," he said.
At first, they intended to see about 60 drawings, but the project grew.
Internet sites picked up the story and within a few days, Aid for Aidan had sold 2,000 of his drawings. At one point the site was shut down for a day because it was so overwhelmed with orders.
"I don't know if it was one thing [that appealed to buyers]," Reed said. "They see his cute face and the situation he is in and they feel compelled to help him. But others have told us it's the drawing themselves."
Comic book collectors and horror movie fans have flocked to the site. Tyler Mane, the actor who plays the fictional "Halloween" character Michael Myers, sent a signed photograph to Aidan's hospital bed. An mp3 player from his favorite character, Sponge Bob, is also on its way.
"Things like that help take his mind of what he's going through, and it makes the world a closer, smaller, warmer place for him," his father said. "It seems like a miracle, and we have a lot brighter outlook. So many people have done so much for our family.
"I feel like I was unhappy about how the world was against us, but a week later, I feel that half the world is in my son's corner," he said. "It's unbelievable."
Click here to look at or purchase Aidan's drawings.