A cancer diagnosis is never an easy pill to swallow. In fact, it’s a terrifying, life-changing bit of information that takes the very strongest of us and brings us to our knees. That sense of unfairness is only magnified when a child is involved.
Sure, the field of medicine is better equipped than ever before to combat cancer, but even so there are times when physicians are simply forced to accept that they can do no more.
When the Spader family, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, learned that their 10-year-old’s cancer was terminal, they set out to do something special before she passed. Through a combination of efforts, they were successful in their aim.
When Rebekah Spader was just six years old, she was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a condition that stops immature blood cells in bone marrow growing to maturity.
Whilst myelodysplastic syndrome isn’t a cancer in itself, some of its forms develop into leukaemia later down the line.
Young Rebekah underwent a bone marrow transplant, but it was sadly unsuccessful. When doctors told her family that her condition was terminal, they were left inconsolable.
Her parents made the overwhelmingly difficult decision to halt Rebekah’s treatment, and instead aimed to ensure the time she had left was as spectacular as it could possibly be.
Fortunately, she had an inspiring older brother, A.J., who was ready to help in that endeavor.
Namely, he wanted to take his little sister – who had turned 10 by this time – to his freshman formal dance.
“I want to spend as much time with her as possible while she’s still doing good,” A.J. said.
A.J. and Rebekah’s parents were proud and delighted in equal measure to see their two babies drawing comfort from each other.
Mom Stephanie said: “It makes me have a really happy mom heart knowing that maybe we’ve done something right raising kids that put other people first.”
Dad Tony, meanwhile, added: “He’s thinking about his sister and she’s not going to get to go to the prom or the formal when she’s in high school because she’s probably not going to make it to high school, so he just wanted to give her that memory.”
“I wanted to ask my sister, because she’s most likely not going to be able to experience high school,” A.J. explained.
“So I just thought, ‘Why not ask her to formal?’”
“Her laugh is pretty great,” he continued. “It’s really fun to just be around her and just make memories.I want to spend as much time with her as possible while she’s still doing good.”
So Rebekah went to the formal, which took place on Valentine’s Day in 2016, and brother and sister had a fantastic time.
Tragically, little Rebekah passed away on August 4 of that same year, though her light is one that will never truly go out.
During her battle she remained strong, brave and loved to help others. This little girl lived a life of generosity despite the hardships she endured.
After her passing, the Spader family established the Rebekah’s Legacy Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises funds to send gifts to children currently undergoing cancer treatment.
The Spader family said: “The love that came from this little girl was so sincere, radiant, and contagious…She was continually brave beyond her years as she fought through so many very difficult days.”