Written by Bruce January
My daughter’s name is Ellen January, and she is 11 years old. Her 2008 summer began the same as most kids her age. She had expectations of swimming, reading books, arts and crafts and playing with friends all before having to return for her 6th grade school year.
Ellen had always been a very healthy child, but on July 4, 2008, doctors diagnosed her with Stage III Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Rather than spending time with her cousin enjoying fireworks and celebrating our country’s freedom, Ellen was confined to a hospital bed as she started chemotherapy treatment.
One of the doctors at Medical City Children’s Hospital in Dallas came to speak to the family. As he explained the situation, Ellen looked at him and asked, “What are my odds?” The doctor said he would give her better than 50/50. She took the news in stride and believed that her health would improve.
Ellen continued her chemotherapy treatment through September. At first, she didn’t react to it, but the worst was yet to come. She developed severe mouth and throat sores within one day of being sent home from the hospital. We were soon instructed to take her back to Medical City by the second day. The mouth, throat and foot sores were persistent, and we often found ourselves making emergency trips to the hospital in the middle of the night.
Ellen refused to be negative during this process. Even when she lost her hair, she never lost her determination. She has kept a great outlook, and she knows God will help her through these times. God was there with her at the beginning of this journey, and He will continue to guide her throughout. But these early trials have allowed her to find strength to fight, strength from God, family, church families, doctors, the community and even strangers.
Ellen is special. She had already faced several difficult situations in her short lifetime, which proves that she is not your normal 11-year-old child. But no matter what challenges she faces, she always keeps a million-dollar smile that lights up any room. This smile and her pure determination to overcome cancer has touched the lives of so many. If you ever get a chance to meet her, you'll see she is a beautiful girl who is taking on a challenge of a lifetime. And she is winning. You can tell just by the smile on her face!