In many ways, Shyann is your typical shy and curious 10-year-old girl. She likes to play outside with her friends, draw, watch TV, learn new things in school and be the best big sister to her younger brother. In other ways, Shyann is different from most of her peers and the challenges they face; earlier this year, she was diagnosed with stage 4 Rhabdomyosarcoma and is currently fighting for her life.
Shyann’s mom, Elizabeth, first noticed something was wrong when Shyann started looking pale and was losing her appetite. Elizabeth’s worries grew after a phone call from Shyann’s school principal, who was concerned about her fatigue. Instead of running around with her classmates as she normally would, Shyann favored the bench on the sidelines. Elizabeth and Shyann’s stepdad, Nicholas, immediately rushed her to the hospital and urged doctors to do whatever they could to explain what was happening to their daughter.
Tests soon confirmed their worst fears: there was a tumor on Shyann’s pelvis that had merged with her spine. She received her official diagnosis a week later, and ASK has been by the family’s side ever since. We were overjoyed to see Shyann’s loving parents and brother go all in when it came to helping her feel less alone!
“Our whole family shaved their head in support of Shyann,” Elizabeth laughs. “This is just the beginning of our journey, and we have a long road ahead of us, so we wanted her to know that we’re all in this together.”
These days, Shyann’s life revolves around the ASK Hematology/Oncology Clinic at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU for chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. She has spent months in and out of the hospital, endured rare, life-threatening side effects from radiation, and braved dozens of blood transfusions. Even so, Shyann and her family stay resilient and headstrong with their community of support with them at every step.
“This diagnosis and treatment plan is so scary for all of us and so stressful. ASK’s support team has been with us since Shyann’s diagnosis, and we look forward to participating in the family events and support groups once Shyann is able,” Elizabeth continues.
“ASK has been incredibly helpful with gift cards for groceries and gas. We live in Dinwiddie, so we travel a good distance to get to Clinic. We also have only one car, so it needs to remain dependable. It’s so comforting to know that someone will have our backs throughout this process, in big and small ways.” - ASK mom Elizabeth
Through the generosity of ASK’s donors, Shyann and her family will continue to receive financial assistance, access to mental health counseling, opportunities for community and connection as Shyann is able, as well as post-treatment educational programs and services to help her thrive in school and life.
“If everything goes well, Shyann will complete treatment in 18 months,” Elizabeth explains. “Childhood cancer is unforgiving, and it comes on so fast. The worst part of Shyann’s disease is that you don’t know that you have it until it’s stage 4. We are so blessed to have ASK to help us navigate this new and confusing world of clinics and hospitals and treatments and remain our advocates!”