“Hi my name is Lucy. I had cancer when I was three. On Friday, April 12th, please wear a hat for $1. All of the money will go to Cookies for Kids Cancer to help get medicine for other children.”
Those were the words Lucy Waldeisen penned on a small sheet of wide-ruled paper. Above her message, Lucy grins at the camera, she is missing a few front teeth, like most kids in her first grade class.
The note was copied and passed out to Ridge View Elementary School students. It’s just one fundraising Lucy and her family have hosted to raise money for pediatric cancer research.
When Lucy was three, doctors found a tumor during a routine checkup. The diagnosis was bad, cancer. High Risk Neuroblastoma, to be specific. The childhood cancer afflicts about 650 kids in the United States every year. Survival rates for kids with Neuroblastoma aren’t good. But Lucy survived.
Though her brown hair has grown back, long enough to tie up in a side ponytail, Lucy remembers the cancer days.
“When I had cancer, it was bad. I puked a ton and a ton,” Lucy said. “All my hair fell out.”
Lucy remembers her dad crying and her nurses in New York or Salt Lake City hospitals being her best friends during the cancer days. Despite barely being out of diapers when she started fighting for her life, Lucy remembers telling herself to be strong.
“I said to myself, don’t give up, don’t, don’t,” Lucy said. “Don’t give up or you could die.”
So she fought and survived the surgery to remove the tumor from her stomach. These days she proudly pulls up bright dresses and shows off a long scar that runs from one side of her ribs to the other. She tells her classmates about treatment and cancer terms most seven-year-olds don’t understand at all.
On Wednesday morning at Ridge View Elementary School, Lucy sits in the principal’s office and talks animatedly about what she would do if she were principal for a day. She thinks she would like to recite the morning announcements. She pauses a moment, wrinkling her freckled nose in concentration.
“But they do the birthdays over the announcements,” Lucy said. “I don’t know people’s birthdays.”
She concedes that maybe the swivel office chair she’s sitting in at the principal’s desk is the best part of the job. Lucy happily hops off the principal’s chair and bounds down the hallway toward her first grade classroom.
Lucy looks like the other eager first-graders in her class, eager to talk about her Elephants project and read new books from the library. It’s hard to imagine the cancer days when Lucy is chatting rapid-fire about her scores of friends and learning fractions by coloring paper pizza slices.
Despite her good health now, Lucy’s family cannot forget about the children who didn’t survive Neuroblastoma and those currently battling it.
“Before Lucy was diagnosed, I didn’t know the impact of cancer on a family,” Hillary Waldeisen, Lucy’s mom said. “Going through it and watching so many other families go through it, my goal is to raise money for research.”
So the Waldeisen’s set up Lucy’s Light, a foundation to honor Lucy’s journey and raise money for children’s cancer research.
This Saturday, Lucy’s Light is hosting its first annual dodge ball tournament at the Belgrade Special Events Center. Teams can sign up and pay dues online at lucyslight.org. For families who don’t want to participate in the tournament, there will be a bounce house, airbrush tattoos and concessions.
The money raised will be donated to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a research group devoted to raising money for effective and varied cancer treatment through the simple concept of bake sales.
Waldeisen said she partnered with the group because she hopes one day there will be more chemotherapy drugs available for children.
“There are only two kids’ chemotherapy drugs,” Hillary said. “They have such long-term side effects that are so significant, they affect a child’s whole life.”
Lucy has to wear hearing aids because the chemotherapy drugs she was given messed with her ears. The clear hearing aids don’t seem to bother her. Neither does talking about being sick or trying to encourage others. For kid’s currently dealing with cancer, Lucy has a message.
“I would say calm down, you’ll be fine. It will be fine,” Lucy said. “I think at the end of cancer I got a prize. Maybe they’ll get a prize.”
To find out more about Lucy and the Waldeisen family, visit Lucyslight.org.