Dear Mark and 98.7 listeners,
It is my absolute privilege to write this letter about the sweetest soul I know, Alaina. Alaina was born with a rare genetic condition called Klippel Trenaunay Syndrome (KTS), that affects the blood vessels and soft tissue in the body. Throughout her life she has undergone numerous surgeries and treatments for her condition, more than any kid should have to endure. She had already overcome so much in her short life before I met her on the Children’s Hospital of Savannah’s Pediatric Specialty Unit (PSU) in July of this year.
Alaina came to the hospital with increasing pain in her left leg, which her mom assumed to be a progression of her KTS. After imaging, it was discovered that Alaina had osteosarcoma of her left leg. Osteosarcoma is a cancer of the bone. Being diagnosed with cancer on top of everything she has already been through was a huge shock to her and her family—but they remained strong, positive, and hopeful through it all. Alaina started chemotherapy and in September traveled to Atlanta to have a surgery called a rotationplasty, where a portion of her leg was removed and the lower leg is rotated 180 degrees and reattached. This is a huge surgery for anyone to have and Alaina handled it like a champ.
Throughout her recovery she remained one of the strongest, bravest humans I’ve ever met. You will almost never hear her complain. And since her surgery, it’s as if nothing has changed. She’s still the same adventurous little girl she was before. Alaina still has many weeks of chemotherapy left, but she battles the nausea, pain, and infections brought on by her treatment like she battles everything else in life, with strength and determination. Her and her family are so excited to get her prosthetic leg so she can get back to being a kid again.
When I first met Alaina, I knew she was special. She is one of the wisest 9-year-olds you’ll ever meet. She has wisdom beyond her years and it is evident when talking to her. I remember her first day on PSU, before her cancer diagnosis, we were playing games at the nurses station and she suggested we go in her room to play so we weren’t too loud and didn’t wake the kids who were healing. Anyone you ask will have the hardest time describing her because there is just so much to say. She is joyful, adventurous, kind, giving, brave, and such a prankster. She always has either words or advice to get you through a tough day or a joke to make you laugh.
Unlike most 9-year-olds, Alaina is a true crime fanatic. She knows more about true crime than anyone—her words, not mine. She even wants to be a homicide detective when she grows up. She loves science, fishing, camping, telling jokes, and making others laugh. You can always find Alaina doing some new craft in her room, whether it is painting, sculpting or making gifts for others. Alaina made bracelets called battle beads and gave them out with the sentiment that she put a little bit of her own strength in each bracelet to help the wearer get through their daily battles. Even giving up some of her own courage and strength to put into those bracelets, she is a fearless warrior, stronger than most adults.
Getting to know Alaina has been one of the most rewarding parts of my year, but it’s not just Alaina that I grew to know and love, it’s her whole family. They are a closeknit bunch that are all fighting for Alaina to get better and making sacrifices every day for her recovery. Her family loves outdoor adventures like fishing, camping, and hunting! Their favorite stores and restaurants are Walmart, Bass Pro Shop, Claire’s (Alaina ;)), Olive Garden, McDonald’s, and Chick fil A. Alaina’s mom and step-dad have been with her through everything, and are her biggest supporters. Charles, her step-dad, loves the Georgia Bulldogs (Go Dawgs!) and anything involving hunting. While Alaina’s mom, Mary, needs of some relaxation, in the form of a spa day, and any relaxing comfort items for at home.
Alaina’s family recently moved to give her an easier time getting about the house after her amputation. She has a brand-new bedroom and could really use some new bedroom décor to make her room as lively as her. Her favorite colors are purple and blue and she loves stuffed animals, especially squishmallows! When discussing her Christmas wishes, Alaina mentioned new art supplies like posca paint pens and a ‘Create this Book’. She also thinks a hammock would be fun to lounge around in!
Alaina has two wild brothers that she has to deal with and keep in line. She was excited to tell me all about what she thinks her brothers would want for Christmas, making sure they get something special too. Devin, who is 13, really enjoys Lego cars and planes, video games, and Roblox. He could also use some new bedding for his new bedroom as well. Braxton is 5 and loves everything Sonic the Hedgehog or Spiderman! In Alaina’s words, “The two of them need to read some books.”
This family has truly been through so much in their lives, and this year especially. If anyone deserves to have their Christmas wish granted it’s them. Christmas is Alaina’s favorite holiday and with the possibility of spending this Christmas in the hospital looming, I know any amount of Christmas spirit sent her way will brighten her day. Whether she ends up spending Christmas in the hospital this year or not, Alaina and her family will make the very most of it, just like they do for everything thrown their way. I can’t wait to watch Alaina kick cancer’s butt and ring that bell!
Thank you for your enormous generosity in blessing our oncology patients and their families each year. It means more than you know.
Pediatric Oncology Nurse
Dwaine & Cynthia Willett Children’s Hospital of Savannah