There is a little girl who is vibrant and brave. She loves ballet and princesses, especially Rapunzel. She loves to play with her friends, swim, be silly and smile. She really loves to smile. Her smile is beautiful and infectious and inspires me to be brave, because she is.
This little girl could be anyone’s daughter; she loves much of what many little girls love. And she could easily be mine.
Many times over the last eight months, I have noticed similarities in this little girl with my daughter yet I pushed those thoughts away out of fear. Fear that any day, I could learn that my daughter also had Ewing’s Sarcoma or some other cancer or illness. I have always kept this sweet girl and her family in my thoughts and prayers, knowing her mother from childhood. I donated money online and read her updates. But, there was fear holding me back from fully feeling my pain for this adorable and brave girl, until a night recently when I was lying in bed with my daughter rubbing her hair.
Hair…how can hair come to signify so much? Yet it does. Rubbing my daughter’s hair watching her rest peacefully, a wave of gratitude washed over me that my daughter has healthy hair. That she is lying in her bed with a full belly resting peacefully while I can smooth her shiny strands. That she can go to school, play with her friends, and get sick without worrying too much about the serious effect a cold might have. There are no guarantees in life and an illness could show up on our doorstep at any moment as it did for Carolyn and her family.
While on vacation with her family in May, Carolyn Hendrix began complaining of a stomach ache. The day after she returned home, her parents took her to her pediatrician who, suspecting appendicitis, sent her for a CT scan. The scan revealed a cancerous tumor around her rib (11 and 12) and pushing against the liver and kidney. The tumor was later diagnosed as Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that occurs either in or around the bones.
Carolyn now had 3 months of chemo followed by tumor removal. Then another 6 months of chemo. Carolyn has been accepted into a trial for Ewing’s and is taking an extra chemo of Topotecan.
Ewing’s Sarcoma affects approximately 250 children and adolescents each year. Typically it is found more in males than females and in children who are between the ages of 5-20 years old. While Carolyn was fortunate that her cancer was discovered in stage 1, her treatment will require nine months of inpatient five-day chemotherapy every two weeks. She will have the tumor surgically removed one third of the way through her chemotherapy treatment plan.
I recently emailed her mom to ask how I could help. I’ve seen many pictures of Carolyn playing with friends at the hospital and thought that toys were one small way we could bring happiness to her. I had not shared Carolyn’s story with my daughter yet, primarily out of fear and wanting to protect my daughter from her own fears. Then I realized that this little girl deserves to have not only the support of adults, she needs the prayers, love and innocent positive energy of children too. After telling my daughter about Carolyn, I could see that it affected her and she wanted to “make Carolyn happy”. I could sense that she held back tears and seemed most concerned about Carolyn’s hair.
We then went through the abundance of toys my daughter owns and sorted through things she thought the girls in the hospital would like because as I told her, “honey, they are just like you, they like what you like”. After accumulating a pile of Barbies and other small princess-ish toys, we bought a couple new things as well because it was Carolyn’s 5th birthday too.
She also need platelets. There can not possibly be an easier thing to share than our blood. I will be getting my blood test done this week and learn if I am a candidate for a platelet donation. Why didn’t I do this sooner? Fear. But it is not fair or right to allow my fear to hold me back when she bravely moves forward despite the many fears she and her family must tackle daily.
We cannot control what happens in life; we can only strive to make it better. Living in fear will not ward off the inevitable, but sharing positivity and compassion can make the inevitable much easier to bear; and what a better world to live in where people reach out to each other. I wish I could do more and hope that my small bit helps.
I want to inspire everyone to reach out to this little girl, she could be mine and she could be yours. There needs to be more funding to support research to develop new chemo-therapies designed for children; to help find better treatments and very importantly, to help her family with the overwhelming costs of treatment.
If you can help, please do; read through Carolyn’s web site, buy her bracelets and share pictures of you wearing them to spread awareness, like her Facebook page, donate money, donate platelets, donate toys and most importantly, keep her in your thoughts as she gets closer to the finish line of her treatment.
There is a little girl who is vibrant and brave. And she loves to smile. I hope her smile washes away your fear as it has mine.