“Lilly has always loved music,” said her mom, Katie. “We used to perform at retirement homes as a family. Her daddy would play guitar, and I would sing, and Lilly would dance.”
But in 2015, Lilly developed headaches and started having trouble balancing in ballet.
“In fact, the night before she was diagnosed we played a retirement home,” Katie continued. “She wasn't feeling well, but she danced for an hour straight that night because she didn't want to let her elderly friends down.”
The next day, an MRI showed Lilly had a mass in her brain. Following surgery near her home, Lilly received a diagnosis of medulloblastoma — brain cancer — and was quickly referred to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to more than 80% since it opened more than 50 years ago.
When Lilly came to St. Jude, she couldn’t walk, talk or swallow. St. Jude music therapist Amy Love began visiting her hospital room to engage her through sound.
Though Lilly could not speak or even hold her head up much, Amy placed bells on her wrists and beat her hands on the drums, and you could just tell Lilly felt comfort and familiarity in that moment. She was smiling and happy!
Now 10 years old, sweet Lilly has completed her treatment, which included radiation therapy and chemotherapy, and has returned home. Not only is she talking and walking, she’s back to practicing ballet and even appeared in the spring recital.
Katie said, “She surprised everyone when she came out on stage and walked away from her walker. She performed without it pretty much the whole time and everyone was in tears.”
“She’s taught me what it’s really like to persevere,” said Katie. “She has taught me what it’s like to fight even when you don’t feel like you can go on any further.”
Her father, Ben, added, “She’s my hero. A lot of people don’t get to meet theirs. Mine calls me Dad.”
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