Crafty, curious Oklahoma girl’s spirits high after tumor removed, chemotherapy completed

Kids with Courage

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Ten-year-old Joanna Estes describes herself as crafty and curious. She’s also finished with chemotherapy!

“I’m done, I’m done! ” she says with a huge grin. The bad guys she’s been fighting just rolls off her tongue.

“Rhabdomyosarcoma. It’s fun saying it fast!”

Joanna’s dad, Morgan Estes, remembers last fall “Joanna came to me and said i have this weird spot in my cheek. I told her ‘it looks like you bit it, so don’t worry about it.’ So she didn’t.”

Joanna points to her right cheek. “It was a lump right here. It was wiggly. I could wiggle it around with my tongue. “

It was a few months later doctors at OU Children’s Hospital identified the walnut-sized lump as a cancerous tumor.

Joanna’s mother, Jessica, recalls, “She had surgery to remove the tumor, and after she had time to heal from that she started chemotherapy.”

That was last spring. Joanna’s parents say the next few months at OU Children’s Hospital and Jimmy Everest Cancer Center were really hard on Joanna.

“She’s spent every week for the past six months throwing up,” says her dad.

Photo goes with story
Joanna Estes

The rounds of chemo and targeted radiation left her physically depleted, but couldn’t dampen her curiosity.

“She’s also a very curious kid,” says Jessica Estes. “I remember she was crying because they’re putting the IV in her arm and it hurt and she was nervous, but through her tears she choked out, ‘how do the mechanics of that work?'”

Joanna adds, “I got so see my tumor. It was gross but I still wanted it [in] a pickled jar on my shelf.”

She didn’t get to do that, but the staff at JEC did help her peer into her own cells through a microscope. She immediately made a replica of the microscope with Legos at home.

It was also at home that Joanna had her own wise revelation beyond her year on how those painful treatments were rescuing her.

“We were folding clothes in my bedroom and my hair was falling out and I realized at that point the chemo is doing its job. I’m losing my hair, it’s killing fast-growing cells and cancer is a fast growing cell, so it’s beating cancer. That’s really exciting for me!”

Joanna says she won’t miss cancer, but she’ll miss the friends she made there.

“I have a lot of favorite nurses at JEC. A LOT!”

Her parents agree.

“The people there make it possible to want to keep going week after week to get this horrible poison put into her chest with a needle every week,” says Joanna’s dad.

This Edmond family is thankful for treatment close to home, hoping more research will go into studying childhood cancers. Maybe Joanna will be part of that future.

“She has joy. She has things she wants to share with others,” says her dad.

If you’d like to help kids like Joanna fight cancer, consider donating to

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