JEFFERSON – After spending time with 5-year old Addalyne (Addy) Morrison, one would never suspect the up and downs she has gone through over the past year.
She talks excitedly about Santa’s pending arrival with what she hopes to be a drum set, wants to show off her elf-on-the-shelf “Sparkle” and her artwork in her room that is fit for a young princess.
In October 2012, Addy was diagnosed with a Wilm’s tumor, the leading cause of kidney cancer in children and the fourth-most common childhood cancer in children ages 3 to 8. On Nov. 19, however, almost a year to the date of that diagnosis, doctors at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh declared her cancer-free.
“On Monday, she will get her port taken out. All the cancer was removed and the lymph nodes are clear,” said Addy’s mother, Brittany Anderson Morrison, 31.
There will be routine scans performed at varying intervals over the next five years, when the worry of the Wilm’s tumor returning can subside. But today, the Morrisons are a happy and grateful family.
Brittany said she lost track of the number of trips they made to Pittsburgh but believes it was more than 100. Many of those times it was snowing and Addy’s aunt, Becky Richards of Jefferson, would chauffeur them to the city. Brittany, who gets anxious driving in winter weather, said she is eternally grateful for the peace of mind that gave her.
Friends and family standing behind the Morrisons was not surprising, but Becky said she could have hardly imagined the type of outpouring Addy received from strangers.
Brittany shared their journey on the Facebook page, Prayers for Addalynne, almost on a daily basis since it began. More than 6,000 people have followed it, sharing words of encouragement, prayers and their own stories. It has served as a journal that helped Brittany cope as Addy went through surgery to remove the tumor, rounds of chemotherapy, fevers and various health setbacks.
“I just want to say thank you to everybody,” Brittany said. “The cards and toys that came after it was in the paper from people we didn’t know – I couldn’t keep up with the thank yous. Something would get opened while we were away at the hospital and the address would end up thrown away. I just want everyone to know how much we appreciated everything. And I don’t know where we’d be right now if the community didn’t help us with some of the financial burdens.”
Brittany said it was one less thing that the family had to worry about. While she and Addy spent weeks away from home for treatments, her husband, Erik, 40, put in extra long hours at work to keep things going at home. Addy’s baby brother, Sam, 4, had the difficult task of adjusting to mom and big sister being away for extended periods of time. The adjustment to the changes was compounded for Sam, who is autistic. Very bright and outgoing, he understood quickly what was happening, Brittany said, and was a real trouper when they had to be away. It is easy to see how close he is to Addy as he hops into a photo when she shows off a piece of artwork she did at the hospital.
“How do you get a clam to the hospital? In a clambulance,” Addy says, giggling. When asked who her favorite doctor was she quickly says, “Mr. Mike.” Brittany explains he is a child life specialist who is there to distract the children and make them laugh when it is time for things like shots. Brittany then added Dr. Jean Tersak, an oncologost, to the favorite list.
The countless days and nights spent in Children’s Hospital helped Brittany and Addy to forge many new friendships.
“There is nothing that compares to talking to other parents who have kids going through this. That support is amazing. We are happy to report that all of our friends we made are doing great right now,” Brittany said. “Everyone got good scans. Everybody is happy.”