WEATHERFORD, Okla. – It’s a hot summer evening and the Weatherford Eagles football team is on the field for one of the first games of the season.
On the sidelines, 14-year-old Chelsie Spillman is part of the cheerleading squad.
“Come on Eagles, let’s fight!” is their cheer.
Chelsie fits right in with the other teens, but what you can’t see is the medical battle she’s endured since she was 11 months old.
Her mom, Danielle remembers, “I noticed there was a knot on the back of her neck.”
Danielle knew her baby inherited a condition she herself has: neurofibromatosis or NF. It’s a genetic disorder that is often mild.
Danielle’s diagnosis of NF had little impact on her life, but Chelsie’s case is a much different story.
“We had an MRI done and a few weeks after, the results came back and the doctors told us she had a tumor.”
There were tumors in Chelsie’s eye nerves and one in her spinal cord.
Dr. Abhishek Bavle from Jimmy Everest Cancer Center explains, “On the inside, in the muscle and even close to the spinal cord, she has these over growths, so they keep growing and press on the spinal cord.”
Dr. Bavle says chemotherapy has slowed the growth of these benign tumors, but one the size of a lemon grew outside her body on the back of her neck.
Chelsie has had two surgeries so far to reduce the tumor’s size.
Dr. Bavle explains, “The challenge with surgery with NF is they grow back. You cut them out but then they grow back because you don’t get to the root of the problem.”
Chelsie says the hardest part was the reaction from classmates to her tumor and a desire not to look different.
Her mother tells her, “You are who you are and God made you who you are and you just live life to the fullest.”
Chelsie says acceptance has grown as friends understand her health battle.
The staff at Jimmy Everest Cancer Center also provides constant encouragement.
Chelsie says, “They are very kind, very caring because they’ve been walking with me my whole life since I was little.”
Chelsie is now taking a targeted therapy in pill form. It targets and stunts the gene that sparks her nerve tumors to grow.
Her tumors are now stalled, and she is pressing the gas on a full life.
Go Eagles! Go Chelsie!
If you’d like to help kids like Chelsie with their health battles, considering donating to JECFriends.org
Kids with Courage is sponsored by Friends of the Jimmy Everest Center.