Beaming in gold tutus and headbands, these four little girls look like any other care-free four- and five-year-olds.
If it didn’t say ‘SURVIVOR’ on their t-shirts, you would be hard-pushed to guess that McKinley, Chloe, Ava and Lauren all endured and defeated something few of their peers have faced: cancer.
Chloe was diagnosed with lung cancer, which is incredibly rare in children. The rest with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common childhood cancer; one that is harrowing to treat, since it infects the immune system.
The four girls met by chance at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in Florida in September 2016, when doctors gave them all pink tutus to lift their mood during their treatment to mark Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
As the girls sat together giggling, someone took a photo.
A year later, in September 2017 they returned to celebrate their remission and remake that photo. And now, they are back, and visibly ecstatic at being healthy, something most take for granted.
According to doctors at All Children’s, the girls have flourished as they have regained strength.
Ava, whose full name is Avalynn, is a huge Disney fan, and very artistic. Chloe loves T-ball and fishing. McKinley is a self-professed ‘girly’ girl – she loves princesses, jewelry, dancing. Lauren loves talking about animals, and hugging everyone.
Speaking to DailyMail.com, Alyssa Luciano, whose daughter Ava was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, said everything right now is ‘surreal’.
‘Once your child has cancer, it’s hard to imagine a “normal” life again. It’s even more special when it’s with her sweet friends that she grew close with while they were all so very sick.
‘Most people dream of different days for their children like the first day of school or weddings. These are the days we’ve dreamed of.’
‘We’re done,’ Lauren’s mom, Shawna Glynn, told Fox. ‘She just rang the bell to signify that she has completed her treatment this past Monday.’
‘Just having other moms to relate to has been phenomenal,’ McKinley’s mom Karen Moore told Fox 13 News. ‘Just to have other people going through it at the same as us.’
ALL is a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many immature white blood cells called lymphocytes.
They crowd out normal white blood cells, causing the body to have a harder time fighting infections.
According to St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, ALL is the most common type of childhood cancer. Approximately 98 percent of children go into remission within weeks of starting treatment and about 90 percent of those children can be cured.
However, the treatment is grueling.
Ava, Alyssa explained, was diagnosed in January 2016 at the age of two after she began limping and had unexplained fevers.
By May that year she was in remission. But the risks of recurrence after such a short bout of treatment are high. So her doctors kept her on chemotherapy for more than two years – a total of 848 days – to be sure that it was gone.
The nausea and nights on end at hospital were heart-wrenching.
Childhood lung cancer – pleuropulmonary blastoma – is incredibly rare.
There seems to be no rhyme or reason to who develops PPB.
In many cases, there is no history of disease, or external factors that could increase their risk.
Increasingly, though, scientists are seeing a correlation between PPB and a specific inherited genetic mutation called DICER1.
DICER1 is seen in 80 percent of PPB sufferers. It is also linked to ovarian tumors and very rare brain tumors.
Symptoms seem like any other illness at first. The child may experience stressful breathing, a cough, or a fever.
SOURCE: DailyMail, by Mia De Graaf