“You would not know from looking at her that she had ever been really, really sick,” says Grace’s dad, Kevin.
Grace was one of the very first children to fundraise with and be supported by Solving Kids’ Cancer (previously the 2 Simple Trust).
Almost nine years in remission, Grace is like any other healthy kid. She’s sporty – playing hockey, rounders and tennis at school. She has a love for music, singing and acting – she recently sat her grade 5 LAMDA exam. On her recent holiday, she was diving off piers and diving under waves like all the other children.
She is not known as the child that was sick, just the family’s youngest.
The only hint at her cancer battle is a regular yearly check-up and a daily injection of a growth hormone.
Grace was diagnosed with stage four high-risk neuroblastoma in October 2007, aged 18 months. Her parents, Kevin and Millicent, opted for surgery and antibody treatment at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre (MSKCC) in New York. There was also high-dose chemotherapy in between. She was in remission.
But in almost 50% of children with high-risk neuroblastoma the cancer comes back and when it does, there is a less than 1 in 10 chance of survival.
So the family feared the worst when she relapsed in August 2008 and required urgent brain surgery to remove a tumour. Grace received further antibody treatment to the brain and spine at MSKCC.
But Grace powered on. The surgery was successful, as was the intensive brain and spine radiation. There was also another round of high-dose chemotherapy. She hasn’t had any evidence of the disease since.
The final cost of Grace’s treatment in the US was almost $1 million, which the family fundraised for with the support of Solving Kids’ Cancer, the Cork Association of New York, friends in Ireland and the Irish American Community.
“Grace has grown up through many hospital visits and still has some challenges ahead. But her great sense of humour, her confidence, and drive to beat whatever is thrown at her, keep her going forward,” says dad, Kevin.
“The support from her sister has also been a strong factor in her success as it is often those words from a sibling that makes all the difference. “
“We, Grace’s parents, are so proud of Grace and the young lady she is growing up to be. When she relapsed we knew the chances were high that we may never see her achieving everything she is, but we couldn’t be happier. We are grateful for all we have in her.”
“Our thoughts go to the children and families fighting this horrible disease – many new developments give kids a better chance today. Have faith, Grace is almost ten years down the road, so there is hope and it can be beaten.”