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Ava is one of our Alex's Million Mile Gold Ribbon Reps, representing one type of childhood cancer. Meet all our Gold Ribbon Reps here!
Ava is very caring, loves her friends and has a soft spot for animals (especially puppies), soccer and gymnastics. She is very smart with a funny personality. The one thing she truly dislikes is whipped cream!
Ava appeared to be healthy and strong, so it was a shock when she was diagnosed with lymphoblastic lymphoma. Just getting the diagnosis was a very frustrating process for Ava’s family.
Ava had a lump on her head, which at first seemed like an ordinary bump from playing roughly with her older brother Tyler. Still, it didn’t go away and her parents checked it each day. They took her to the pediatrician who said it was a cyst they could safely ignore, and then to a dermatologist who told them the same thing. Nevertheless, they decided they wanted it removed. The “simple” surgery to remove the cyst ended up taking three hours and it became clear something was rattling the dermatologist. Ava’s family kept calling the office for results but didn’t get them, except to be told there were some “atypical cells.” Finally, when they went back to have Ava’s stitches out, her father was told the horrible news that Ava had cancer.
Life as they knew it changed overnight. The day before Ava’s 9th birthday, she began treatment at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles about an hour from her home. Her treatment was scheduled to last two years. For a social person like Ava, leaving third grade abruptly and leaving behind all of her friends was very hard.
“Our family didn’t understand what a cancer patient had to go through to get well again,” Ava’s Mom said. “Cancer is very lonely and isolating.”
Ava overcame many obstacles, including hospital stays, allergic reactions to drugs, surgeries, chemo, complications with her port, losing her hair and being in a wheelchair. She did not complain and always went along with her treatment plan.
Currently more than halfway through treatment, Ava’s family’s dream for her is that she be able to return to the life she once knew, including school, Girl Scouts, soccer and play dates with friends. Ava has decided that she would like to start her own foundation to help other kids who have cancer and has collected crafts and toys to deliver to kids in the hospital, since she knows how isolating the experience of being hospitalized can be.
Ava’s family was first introduced to ALSF at a friend’s birthday party, where the birthday girl asked for donations instead of presents. And while Ava was in the hospital she was given the book “Alex and the Amazing Lemonade Stand”. Her family gave it to her 3rd grade teacher so her classmates could understand what Ava was going through. Even before Ava was diagnosed, her mom says, her daughter asked that instead of birthday presents, she would like donations made to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, an act of generosity that later had even more meaning for the family.
Quote: When the family learned that Ava had to go back to the hospital for 13 months, Ava said, “Mommy, it's really not that bad, just 13 more times to the hospital."
Information provided by Gina Rich, Ava’s Mom
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