|Ellie on the first day of dance class.|
This was one of the decisions that we made to care for Ellie's heart during treatment. She probably missed at least 1/3 of the classes and wasn't always well when she was in class, but she was dancing and I think that made her very happy.
Instead of doing recitals, their dance school does musical productions. There are musical theater classes, and as each class performs their show, the individual dance classes will participate in a scene. The kids LOVE them and it is a much more enjoyable experience for the audience. This year the Elementary cast was set to perform Madagascar Jr. Eva is in the musical theater class, so her role was as a penguin. Nora and Ellie are in the same dance class, so they were to dance as sailors during the scene where the animals have been taken captive and are headed to Madagascar on boat. The show is amazing, the costumes are adorable and Ellie is so excited to finally dance on stage!
There were two shows that Ellie was to dance in. With the first show, I was backstage helping so I did not plan on seeing her dance. Instead, I was going to enjoy the show in the audience on second night, along with all of our family that were in attendance.
Unfortunately, it didn't exactly go as planned.
Ellie ended up spiking a fever that afternoon. After pleading with her doctor, she allowed Ellie to go on with the show, as long as we promised to keep a close eye on her fever and come in immediately if something changed. The show went on, but Ellie was feeling so crummy that she did not want to dance. It was heartbreaking for our family, but we understood. Cancer took something from us that night, but I knew that Ellie would have many more opportunities to dance on stage.
I wrote this on my personal Facebook page soon after the show:
“I don't know CAST people all that well but I have a feeling that's a safe community to be a mess with.”
A friend sent me this via text this evening. She could not have been more accurate. CAST families are remarkable and share the love of Christ in such real and tangible ways. I was a mess tonight, but walking into my girls’ performance, I hugged and cried on no less than a dozen shoulders. This is why I insist that my girls be a part of CAST. I don’t care how they choose to express their creativity, I just want them to be a part of this culture. I told a mom yesterday that I felt like we hit the jackpot with CAST.
To all of the CAST families that continue to love on us, thank you. We don’t know everyone, but everyone that we do know is so dear to our family. Thank you for being real, thank you for showing God’s love, and thank you for letting me be a mess.
While the evening did not go how I hoped, I’m realizing that it’s not about my expectations. At the moment, we are ALL home together, and that is all that matters.
In a miracle, Ellie's fever never returned. That was the first time that we have NOT gone to the ER after a fever spike. I was sad that Ellie felt so terrible, but happy that we were able to return home.
|A friend took these pictures from the night before and sent them to me.|
Now, I'm going to sidetrack with another story for a moment.
Last fall, Eva, Nora and Ellie were asked to participate in an event for the Children's Cancer Center. It was a fashion show fundraiser called Wine, Women & Shoes. They were asked to walk the runway with other families to give a face to pediatric cancer. The girls were excited, and it was an easy walk down the runway and back. Or so we thought. The girls were each given a sign to hold, which proved to be disastrous.
Ellie was crying and hitting Nora with her stick all the way down the runway. There are no more pictures because I immediately jumped up to get Ellie as she walked off the stage. (I can laugh about this now, but in the moment I was equal parts hurting for Ellie and mortified that the walk was ruined.)
I get it. Ellie is four. It was a big venue with a lot of people, and she consistently does not feel well. I felt bad for having her do it, but honestly it was one of those things that I didn't know what would happen unless we tried. (This was before the Madagascar dance.) Needless to say, we haven't been asked back.
Ok, so fast forward to about two months ago. A friend posted online that the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation was hosting their largest fundraising event in Tampa, Fashion Funds the Cure, and they were in need of pediatric cancer models to walk the runway. An added dose of fun was that each child would also get to walk with someone in their chosen dream profession. Ellie said she wanted to be a ballerina.
Do you see where this is going? Dancing AND a runway show. The odds were not looking good for success. But hey, they don't know what's happened in the past! So, we signed Ellie up to walk.
Meet Ellie: Ellie was diagnosed with Pre-B Cell ALL 2016.
Ellie likes dancing 💃 and painting 🎨. She dreams of being a ballerina dancer when she grows up. Ellie says: "I am an Elsa snowflake dancer ❄, dancing on a stage.
What's the worst that could happen? She doesn't walk? It's ok. She doesn't dance? It's happened before. She hits someone? We will make sure she doesn't have anything in her hands.
Parenting seems to be a fine line of knowing when to push your child and when to hold back. By no means am I a stage mom, but knowing how much Ellie loves to dance, I really had hope that this would be something that she would enjoy. We are tired of cancer taking experiences from Ellie. With her treatment almost over, this seemed like the perfect time for her to shine. I talked up the ballerina for several weeks, and thankfully Ellie grew very excited to participate in this event.
To everyone reading this right now, I don't know if I have the right words to express how wonderful this event was for Ellie and our family.
It was magical.
Ellie shined like I have never seen her shine before. (Excuse me while I wipe my own tears right now.) We were not sure exactly what to expect, but I can promise you that it exceeded my wildest dreams for the night.
From the beginning, all of the children were treated with great love and care. Last Saturday there was a costume and fashion fitting, followed up with pampering, gifts and lunch.
From the moment we arrived for the show last night night, the pampering and fun began! Ellie got to have her make up done and all three girls got to meet princesses (this was another little girl's dream profession).
Eventually Ellie felt comfortable enough for us to leave. A wonderful volunteer, Dara, who works as a Child Life Specialist at All Children's was in charge of Ellie for the evening. Eva, Nora, Mike and I left Ellie with her and then ate delicious food until it was time to find our seats for the show.
Every single person that was involved with this event was superb! I wish I could individually thank all of them, and I tried as much as I could last night. The runway show was fabulous with very popular (in our house) music from The Greatest Showman. Eva and Nora thought this was the greatest (no pun intended) and belted out the songs at the top of their lungs. From there, everything else really was centered around the kids and their dreams. If you ever have the opportunity to attend one of these events, please go. I promise that you will not regret it.
The models walked once by themselves, but they also each walked with a child. I didn't get the opportunity to meet the kind woman that walked with Ellie, but she was the perfect match for her. It's obvious to me that she took the time to make Ellie feel comfortable with her. But the end of the runway walk, it was clear that Ellie had no problem being on stage.
|At this point, Ellie spotted us in the crowd and yelled out, "Hi Eva! Hi Nora!"|
|I signed "I love you" to Ellie and here she is doing it back to me.|
There was a final walk with all of the children and their mentors. Ellie was beaming the entire time. We were able to take a few more pictures, but then it was time for the evening to draw to an end. Even with all of the fun, it was a long night for everyone.
|Ellie spotted me and handed me her "magic flowers" given to her by the ballerinas.|
Finally, we cannot forget what struggles this little ballerina has gone through to get to this moment. When we arrived home she was sound asleep, but still needed her medicine. This is Mike giving Ellie her daily chemo.
Three weeks. That's it. Three more weeks of treatment, and then we enter into the "post-cancer" life. Thank you for continuing to follow along with Ellie. We are grateful for your continued prayers.