9-year-old plans to ‘grow up’ after long battle with cancer
If anyone needed love, it was Delaney, who was fighting for her life to beat the stage 4 cancer that spread throughout her body.
Perhaps it was that love of her family, her friends, even strangers in the Grand Junction community, that helped her beat it.
Delaney Clements, 9, was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma in October 2010 after she fell off of her bike and sustained a hip injury that wouldn’t heal.
Neuroblastoma is a malignant cancer that affects infants and children. It normally is diagnosed in children under the age of 5. Statistically, the older a child is when diagnosed, the lower the survival rate.
“She had tumor cells everywhere except her head and her brain,” said Wendy Campbell, Delaney’s mother.
Delaney’s situation was unusual and dire. She was immediately flown to Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora. A large tumor was detected on her left adrenal gland, which was immediately removed by surgery. Two rounds of chemotherapy followed.
“I thought we were going to lose her. I really did,” Campbell said, tears welling in her eyes as she talked about it.
Delaney endured seven chemotherapy treatments total, each time staying at least a month in the hospital.
“I was in so much pain that I wasn’t scared,” Delaney said of her time in the hospital.
In particular, Delaney remembers the pain when stem cells were harvested during a bone-marrow biopsy.
“That one hurt really bad,” she said.
The doctors performed a bone-marrow rescue that cleared her bones of unhealthy cells and reintroduced her own healthy stem cells.
In the meantime, family, friends and strangers rallied for Delaney’s recovery in Grand Junction.
“Everyone here just took it really personally,” Campbell said, adding the outpouring of love and generosity by the Grand Junction community shocked her.
Neighbors cleaned their house. They left homemade meals. They offered to take Campbell’s other children while Delaney and her parents were in Denver.
The children in Delaney’s third-grade classroom at Orchard Avenue Elementary collected pennies and wore pink shirts in support of their friend. A stuffed monkey kept her seat warm while she was gone.
Different groups held fundraisers to help Delaney’s family afford the many trips to the Front Range and pay insurance copay premiums and other medical costs.
“We live in an amazing community, and it makes you so proud to live here when you see people embrace you like that,” Campbell said.
And now, it’s time to celebrate, almost.
In January, Delaney was cancer-free. In February, she was cancer-free. One more month and one more test will determine whether Delaney is in remission.
“I’m super, super excited,” Delaney said.
She can’t wait to get back to doing what 9-year-old girls love: gymnastics, swimming and sleep-overs.
She also has taken a new chair in the fourth grade.
“All my friends were so happy for me. They kept giving me hugs because they missed me so much,” she said with a laugh and a toothy grin.
She plans to enjoy the custom-designed hot tub that the Make-A-Wish Foundation gave her Saturday.
“I wanted something I could keep, and I love to swim,” she said.
And, she has plans to grow up.
“I’m going to the UCLA Medical School to be a nurse, and I’m going to work in the NICU, so I can help babies,” she said. “And, I’m going to fly around the world and help kids. When I grow up I know what I’m going to do, and now it just seems really fun.”