a little rae of hope »

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Angel was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s T-cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma, a blood cancer, on March 13, 2013, at the age of 11. She was feeling winded and short of breath from time to time. Her mother thought maybe she had childhood asthma, and took her to urgent care. They gave Angel an Albuterol treatment, but she just couldn’t inhale and couldn’t explain why. They took an X-ray and said they saw a shadow, and sent them immediately to Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk, Virginia. Angel was admitted to PICU that evening, with an excessive amount of fluid near her heart and around her left lung, where the cancer manifested. Doctors drained over two quarts of fluid. She spent five days in PICU before getting transferred to the 8th floor Oncology ward. Angel’s mom shared, I just told my daughter she has cancer. She asked me if she was going to die. I said, “no, ma’am.” She asked me if she was going to be bald. I said, “yes, ma’am.” She smiled the biggest smile and said, “I’m going to be all right.” Angel gave her a thumbs up sign, they developed the hashtag #wegotthis, and set to work.

Angel went to clinic every week, then every ten days, then eventually every two weeks. She’s had a dozen or more blood transfusions, and the same number of platelet transfusions. She’s had over 20 spinal taps. She had a power port surgically inserted to receive her IV chemotherapy medications. She has had home injections of radiation medication. She’s had naso-gastric tubes inserted for nutrition. She’s had over 25 different home prescriptions throughout treatment. Angel fought through two bouts of CDIF [a bacterial infection] in the first year of treatment because of her low immune system. Family and friends lent support through it all.

Angel remained as active as she could during treatment. One of the first things she did, while still in the hospital, was start The Post Card Project. So many cards and letters were coming in, she wanted to share them with other children on the ward. Her family set up a mailbox, and asked that postcards of support be sent from all over the world for distribution.

Angel volunteers at Norfolk Animal Care, including selecting three favorite animals as “Angel’s Picks” each month for a waived adoption fee, supported by Friends of NAC, and bringing awareness about childhood cancer. She participated in a number of donation drives to support the center, as well. Her former dog, Emmy, went to live with a friend, as the family couldn’t care for her with so much time at the hospital. Emmy is now a therapy dog. Angel found animal companionship at home with Sammy, a water-loving cat, through the end of her treatment.

Angel was able to attend a number of camps during treatment breaks, and is active in Girl Scouts. She was a member of the Animal Awareness club and Color Guard at school, and maintained Honor Roll the entire time she was sick.

July 15, 2015, marked the end of over two years of treatment, and on July 24, she was declared cancer free. Angel’s port was removed on August 10. She turns 14 on September 4, and starts high school on September 8.

Thank you Portraits by Maggie Ann for these images.