CHESTER, Okla. (KFOR) — Whether it’s jumping on the family pony for a quick ride, or carrying around a farm chicken to pet, five-year-old Vivian Whitacre is an eager, hands-on child.
“I guess you’d say she rules the roost,” laughs her mother, Brandi Whitacre.
This busy family from Chester in western Oklahoma had their lives turned upside down in the winter of 2021. Vivian wasn’t her usual bouncy self, struggling with fevers and exhaustion. At first, her parents chalked it up to circulating viruses.
Brandi nods toward her husband, saying “The whole time Brandon had a gut feeling. I ended up feeling guilty because I’m the nurse of the family.”
Vivian’s lab results were shocking. Brandi tears up when she recalls getting the call with the results.
“And the doctor says, are you driving? She said Vivienne’s white blood cells were extremely high. I believe normal is 11-14 but hers were in the 200s.”
It was high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Suddenly this rural family’s life began to revolve around OU Children’s Hospital and Jimmy Everest Cancer Center.
“During those first several months, we basically lived there. Vivian is not scared to go there, and it’s welcoming. The staff is welcoming, not just the nurses, the doctors, it’s everybody,” noted Brandi and Brandon.
Vivian nods in agreement, “The doctors are nice and they help me.”
While Vivian’s chemotherapy will continue until next summer, she’s feeling better now and is in remission. When you talk to her, you quickly discover her health concerns now are more garden variety. For example, she is eager to talk about the tooth fairy rather than cancer, showing a visitor her missing tooth.
“I’m going to put it in my bedroom and not let the dog get it” she says.
Vivian’s older brother, Rustyn, laughs, “It’s fun to see her grow from when she had cancer and stayed in bed all the time and rest, and now she’s just running out, and riding a hoverboard, and riding a horse.”
Thanks to her medical team, her family and her community, Vivian is back in the saddle. She’s started kindergarten and is running around the farm.
“You don’t know what your child can do until you get into this situation,” says mom, Brandi.
Vivian’s family would like to say thank you to the communities of Chester, Seiling, Taloga and Canton. They all held fund-raisers to support the Whitacre family.
If you’d like to help children like Vivian fight cancer, consider donating to JECFriends.org.