Do reunions get sweeter than this? Four small friends who met in the hospital while getting treated for cancer are back together for a group photo. And this time, they’re wearing shirts that say “Survivor.”
That’s because Chloe, Lauren, McKinley, and Ava — now 4 to 5 years old — have finished their treatments and are in remission. Each girl’s signs of cancer have gone away completely or partially.
They’ve struck a group pose at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL, where they were treated, for 3 years in a row now.
“The first year, the kids were all on active treatment, bald, and [they] wore pink tutus and gold shoes and bows to represent childhood cancer,” says Chloe’s mother, Jacquelyn Grimes. “They wore shirts that said ‘Straight Outta Chemo.'”
For the second year, they dressed up in gold tutus and wore shirts that said “Brave,” “Strong,” “Fearless,” or “Warrior.”
Ava, McKinley, and Lauren needed treatment for one of the most common types of childhood cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It affects the blood and bone marrow, and it often shows up between the ages of 2 and 4. It can bring on symptoms such as bone and joint pain, weakness, and unexplained weight loss. It’s usually treated with chemotherapy, and it can be cured.
Chloe was treated for a rare but curable kind of childhood lung cancer called pleuropulmonary blastoma type III. It’s usually diagnosed in children 3 to 4 years old, and the symptoms can seem like pneumonia. The signs could include a cough, fever, trouble breathing, and chest or stomach pain. Surgery, chemo, radiation, and stem cell transplants are some of the therapies for it.
The friendships the girls and their parents made during treatment were invaluable, Grimes says. “We quickly bonded on the hospital floor and in clinic. We networked with other parents and became a support group for each other. We compared stories, treatments, issues, and ideas.”
“Finding a community is so important in helping kids to get better,” says WebMD senior medical director and pediatrician Hansa Bhargava, MD. “These friendships really make a difference in emotional healing and recovery from serious disease.”