So Many Reasons to Celebrate: An Update on Grace

by Rebekah Ham
September 3, 2015

Last month, 2014 Ambassador Grace had her final post-treatment MRI. Her mom, Bekah, shares the good news, along with some other milestones that have had them smiling this past summer.

Grace smiles with her parents

Grace smiles with her parents, Bekah and Russell.

Today, we rejoice.

Grace’s MRI in August showed no evidence of disease. And now, eight years after diagnosis, the MRIs are done.

This is a huge medical milestone every cancer parent dreams of. It hasn’t completely sunk in.

After 19 post-radiation MRIs, they have become a habit. Almost two-thirds of Grace’s life has required them. To not need them means … cured? While no one has used that word — perhaps too many lifelong side effects stand in the way — we can celebrate with lighter hearts some kid milestones that are long overdue.

We celebrate bike riding.

Grace smiles with her new bike helmet

A younger Grace smiles with a bike helmet that reads, “I love my brain.”

After three lessons with Mike, her PE teacher, Grace is able to ride a two-wheel bike with minimal assistance.

To watch her succeed in this way left me breathless, goosebumps up and down. It feels like not that long ago we were celebrating that momentous first walk after brain surgery.

We had agreed these bike lessons would be her last attempt at a two-wheeler before we looked into three. The timing was right. More lessons are needed, but her confidence is in place to keep trying.

We celebrate reading.

Grace reading at the beach

Grace lounges with a book.

I have clear memories of driving to Boston for proton beam treatment and having Grace, age 5, sounding out road signs from the back seat. That stopped once treatment was underway.

Throughout elementary school, the laboriousness of reading frustrated her. While friends were devouring Harry Potter, Grace was struggling over each and every word.

Blog: Late Effects of Grace's Childhood Cancer Treatment
This past year, something clicked for her. Tears of “I can’t do it!” gave way to announcements of “I love to read!” She savored These Happy Golden Years in the Little House on the Prairie series, all 304 pages, without any support.

A highlight of the summer for me was seeing her stretch out in the sunshine with a new, less familiar novel, and then retell the story and make connections to the vast library of stories she carries around in her mind.

We celebrate laughing until you snort.

We tried our darnedest to keep joy in our lives during treatment, but belly laughs were rarer than rare. There’s not a lighthearted soul in sight. Fear of death can do that to you.

This summer was different.

Grace smiles while eating ice creme with her sisters

Grace and her sisters cooling off with some ice cream.

This summer we picked up a giddy Grace from a week of overnight camp. She shared how her talent show performance was a ticketed hug booth, and how, on the last night, she laughed so hard she snorted. In a whisper she added, “If I could put all my happy in a bottle, it would overflow times a billion!”

Her carefree demeanor and independence were exhilarating; her joy was contagious.

Grace scaring off the camera

Grace has always been imaginative, Bekah says.

Maybe the highs are that much higher because the lows have been so low. The milestones certainly feel richer.

I am hopeful the highs will continue for Grace. I am hopeful that more kids with cancer diagnoses will lead long lives of celebration. I am hopeful that kid milestones will not be forever sidelined by cancer.

And today, we rejoice.

Grace wants all kids with cancer to be able to celebrate milestones. See how she’s helping to make that happen through the Grace for Good Hero Fund.

Grace for Good

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