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“That’s where the nightmare began,” Sharp neck pain leads to devastating diagnosis for Oklahoma family

OKLAHOMA CITY - The world is a stage for 8-year-old Realeigh Risinger.

Whether it’s in her living room, or in a clinic waiting area at Jimmy Everest Center for Cancer, she doesn’t need any encouragement to share her latest song or dance routine.

She was singing and dancing through life last September when she suddenly started experiencing sharp neck pains.

“So we went to the Altus emergency room and waited four hours before her tests came back. They found an unknown mass on her C3 vertebrae, so that's just where the nightmare began," Laura, her mother, recalled.

The diagnosis was something Laura had to learn to pronounce: Langer Hahn cell Hystiocytosis or LCH for short. It’s a rare disease where abnormal cells from the bone marrow multiply, creating lesions.

In Realeigh’s case, a tumor formed in her spine.

“Sometimes they attack the normal tissues of the body, like the bones, and they can also grow in organs like the spleen,” Pediatric oncologist Dr. Chibuzo Ilonze, with Jimmy Everest Center for Cancer, explains.

While being examined, Realeigh jumps at the opportunity to take the stethoscope and listen to Dr. Ilonze’s heart.

This bright, engaged girl is a ball of energy despite her condition. She must wear a neck brace to protect her weakened spine while the tumors shrink.

Her doctors are trying different chemotherapies. The first two were not successful, so she’s currently trying a third chemotherapy.

Fortunately, the chemo isn’t shrinking Realeigh’s sunny personality.

“I really want to be a singer and dancer. I just want to be famous” Realeigh explains as she performs a quick dance routine during her interview. Her mom adds “This is the way she is all the time, she has no filter, always."

"She's smiling, she's happy, she's cheerful and for the diagnosis she has, I am really happy with the way she's taking it," Dr. Ilonze said.

There are more acts in Realeigh’s one girl show, and she’s looking forward to every performance.

If you’d like to help children like Realeigh fight cancer, consider donating.

'Kids With Courage' is sponsored by the Jimmy Everest Center.