OKLAHOMA CITY - A small band of children chant “Audra, Audra, Audra” while wearing identical gray t-shirts with pink camouflage letters that spell out “Audra’s Army.”
They are classmates of 8-year-old Audra Yarholer, from Prairie Vale Elementary School in Deer Creek. In just a few days, they sold 300 t-shirts to support their friend.
Their efforts mean a lot to Audra’s parents, April and Doug.
“So Audra was completely healthy, just a loving, caring, happy-go-lucky 7-year-old at that time,” says April, thinking back to last spring when Audra received a surprising medical diagnosis. “She played a lot of softball and had a lot of fun with her friends.”
April was expecting her fourth daughter when Audra, who is their oldest, started running a fever and complaining of leg pains.
They still choke up remembering those test results that spelled out the cause: ALL or Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. In simple terms, it’s a cancer of the blood.
"You have this healthy kid and then you get those results and it's like, how did that happen? Why did it happen?" says April.
Dr. Lincy Thomas, from Jimmy Everest Cancer Center, remembers when Audra came to the clinic for testing and treatment.
"I'm sure Audra gets scared, but she is so well beyond her years. She just said, 'Let's just start right away.' So we started chemo right away and her body and her leukemia has responded really well," Dr. Thomas said.
Audra is creating paper butterflies with a visiting reporter, chatting in her soft voice about her favorite animals.
When asked about what she was feeling at that time, she says simply, “It was mostly pain in my shins, and I couldn’t walk. You need your shins to walk!”
It’s been a blur since then for the Yarholers. There were chemo treatments, hospital stays, and she has a new baby sister now to dote on.
She loves it when her family can just have a quiet evening playing board games. She also loves the support she gets from her school and community.
“We walk into her school and all the kids have these shirts on, so it shows their caring and support. It helps her a lot," April said.
Audra has also received love and support from her medical team at Jimmy Everest. She loves visiting the toy chest, where patients get to pick out an item such as a game or stuffed toy when they come in for treatment.
“I hope she can just really grow up to be a happy kid. If art is what she wants to pursue, she can, or be whatever she wants to be," Dr. Thomas says.
“We just keep moving forward. We don’t have a choice, you just do it,” her parents say.
Click here if you'd like to help Audra and other children fight cancer.
'Kids with Courage' is sponsored by the Jimmy Everest Center.