Ella the Warrior Princess, as she is known in the community and by those who love her, has so many things in her list of favorites. Ice cream with sprinkles and midnight pancakes are among them, as well as animals, particularly dogs. At just five months old, tiny Ella was diagnosed with a brain tumor that was removed with surgery but then began to grow again only two months later.
“The initial diagnosis was hard, but the relapse was gut wrenching; we knew it meant that she would need additional surgeries and would have to immediately start chemotherapy. It was overwhelming trying to figure it all out," Ella's mom, Tammie says.
The family had just moved into a new neighborhood and Ella’s sister Madelyn had started Kindergarten and her brother Cameron, 8th grade. When word about Ella’s relapse spread through the community, Tammie began receiving messages from kind strangers offering help, advice, and prayers. One email became the connection to The Sweet Julia Grace Foundation.
Tammie explains that since Ella was so young at diagnosis and there was so much information being thrown at them, the family wasn’t even sure what they needed for help at the time. “The gift of Sara’s friendship turned out to be exactly what we needed,” says Tammie.
This connection with Sara and the Foundation served as an even greater connection to other families going through similar circumstances. Relationships were quickly formed during the Raindancer Moms events and the Christmas and Fall Celebrations hosted by SJGF for Raindancer families.
“These events are special because they help you feel a little less isolated and alone. It helps you see there are other families like yours and meet other moms with similar experiences,” says Tammie.
Ella has now been off treatment for three years and is considered by her doctors to be stable. Tammie says thinking back to Ella’s first day of diagnosis is difficult, but she offers some thoughts to others who might be in the same boat.
"You were drafted into this fight, it’s going to be hard, and day one is brutal, but know you are not alone and easier days are ahead. Don’t forget to breathe. Accept all the help. This is not the time to try to be a superhero. This is the time to call on your village."
And when asked what she'd like everyone to know about kids who go through difficult times, or who have cancer, Ella, who wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up had this to say,
"MRIs are okay because you get to eat pancakes at midnight."
Sounds like a true Raindancer response if you ask me. If the storms should come, we shall just dance in the rain, or eat pancakes at midnight, either works.