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Grace still remembers the vault event in gymnastics. She felt a charge of energy as she ran toward the vault, jumped onto the springboard and pushed off the equipment, twisting her body through the air. She remembers how strong she felt and how fun it was.
She remembers landing on her feet, and the desire to do it all again.
Fast and powerful after three years of gymnastics lessons, 7-year-old Grace had what it took to be a competitor like her two older sisters. She excelled at all four events—bar, beam, vault, floor—but loved vaulting best. She was set to enter her first competition in fall 2011.
Instead, cancer came along in July 2011. It would be the challenge of her life.
It started with a bloody nose and strange red spots on her face where her swim goggles had been. Then came a fever and a strange growth under her arm that seemed to double in size overnight. Her mother worried and took her to the doctor.
Grace was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a tough cancer to treat. Worse, she had a genetic mutation that made it even tougher.
“It means her leukemia was stronger than the chemo they use to kill it,” said her mom, Catherine.
At St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the family found a medical team determined to make Grace well. St. Jude treats treats children with cancer and deadly diseases with pioneering research and exceptional care. Grace received a life-saving bone marrow transplant on October 25, 2011. Her sister was her transplant donor. Today, her cancer is in remission.
Nailing the dismount
Grace is home now, happily reunited with her three sisters. Her activities are limited as she regains strength and builds immunity. She has an active imagination and loves to write and reflect on her life. Her thoughts often turn to gymnastics.
Grace remembers doing handstands on the bar, then flipping upside down and lingering for a moment to watch this new perspective on the world. When she hung upside down like that, her coach made funny faces, sending her into a fit of giggles.
That’s what she really misses—all these normal things that make a life.
She deserves more moments like these, and St. Jude wants to give them to her.
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