Despite what she faces on a daily basis, Eleanor Brooks finds time for childhood fun. She likes to read, do embroidery, make jewelry, draw and paint. She also loves music and dancing, and when she’s physically able to, she takes piano and ice skating lessons. At home, you’ll likely find her doing yoga, baking or playing with her little brother Mark and little sister Marianna.
“She’s a silly, normal 8-year-old girl,” her mom Aronne says, “and no matter what she’s going through, or how she feels, Eleanor usually always has a smile on her face.” Eleanor’s familiar smile was one of the many reasons Dr. Gita Massey, Eleanor’s primary oncologist in the ASK Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Clinic, nominated her for CHoR’s 2016 calendar. Dr. Massy and the ASK team have been a huge part of Eleanor’s life since she was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, an aggressive form of cancer, when she was just two years old.
“Eleanor absolutely LOVES the hematology and oncology team,” Aronne remarks. “She has since day one of her journey. The rest of our family loves them as well. We are so thankful for them. They are loving and thoughtful, spending time with her and asking her how she is and what she’s been doing, celebrating with her when she’s feeling and doing well, and comforting her when she’s feeling poorly.”
“The doctors and nurses have a special relationship with Mark and Marianna as well,” Aronne adds. “They have watched all three of them grow up. Mark and Marianna run to give them hugs and talk and play with them, almost as if they look at them as family.”
Eleanor’s favorite CHoR memory is attending the oncology prom. She was in the hospital during the 2015 prom, but her chemo treatment finished right before prom started! Eleanor was able to go downstairs for prom even though she was still hooked up to her IV pole. Her little brother brought her a corsage and she gave him a boutonniere. Eleanor had a great time dancing with her clinic friends.
Eleanor’s battle with cancer began with two years of treatment involving IV and oral chemotherapy and many spinal taps and bone marrow tests. She was diagnosed with a relapse two years later in November 2014 at age 6 and spent the majority of the next 14 months undergoing very intense almost weekly chemotherapy, both in the ASK Clinic and during inpatient stays at the hospital. Throughout this treatment, she also had spinal taps with chemotherapy medication pushed into her spinal fluid and more bone marrow tests. “That 14 months of treatment was very hard on her,” Aronne recalls. “You would never know though, since she was almost always happy.”
Eleanor is now undergoing the third of five maintenance-phase cycles that start with a spinal tap and steroids and include four weeks of IV chemotherapy in the clinic and six weeks of oral chemotherapy medication. She has weekly appointments for lab testing, and depending on how her numbers look, may be admitted to the hospital. If she spikes a fever, she heads to the emergency room for lab testing and antibiotics.
Eleanor is expected to finish this treatment phase in February 2017, and while she’s able to be home more, this phase is still life-altering and intense. “Her counts have been up and down,” Aronne says. “It’s unpredictable and in no way easier; it’s just different. She hasn’t been able to go to school regularly since she was in first grade. She misses her friends a lot and is hoping to get to go back to school in the fall.”
We would like to say a very special thank you to this bubbly 8-year-old for sharing her big personality and her joyful, strong spirit, with us for our 2016 calendar. Seeing Eleanor’s bright smile is an inspiration for us all.
The “Meet our Calendar Kids” blog series highlights children featured in CHoR’s 2016 Tid*Bits calendar. Join our mailing list to receive future issues of the Tid*Bits calendar and newsletters. We hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know Eleanor, our featured patient for August 2016.
Eleanor was photographed (right) with a basket of veggies for a calendar article on how to win the “veggie wars.” Peas and potatoes are her faves, and when it comes to veggies, Eleanor has some advice of her own to share: Try it and you just might like it. “Eleanor doesn’t always like to try new foods,” her mom says. “But sometimes when she does, she’s surprised and ends up really liking it.”