Meet Starlight Ambassador Grace

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, 9-year-old Grace was struggling with random pain throughout her body. Coupled with a loss of appetite, her mother decided it was time to see a doctor. After a blood test, an ER visit, and a transfer to the oncology department, Grace and her family were finally given a diagnosis; acute lymphoblastic leukemia.    

“I had to have an incredibly difficult conversation with my daughter,” Rachel, Grace’s mother, told us. “I explained to her that she had cancer. We had no idea what was in store for us in the coming days, months, and now years to come but we hugged, and she told me, “It’s going to be alright; I’m going to get through this!””  

The first year after Grace’s cancer diagnosis was tough as she endured a lot of pain, going through lumbar punctures and chemotherapy as part of her medical care. Due to COVID restrictions at the hospital, Grace’s father Juan wasn’t able to be in the room with her during her first hospitalization, and instead slept in the family car in the hospital parking lot for two days, only receiving updates from his wife via phone call. Grace was unable to see her father for six days, at one point, and it took a toll on both her and her parents. 

As a result of the numerous hospital visits during treatment, Grace missed quite a bit of school, being with her friends, and the fun parts of being a kid. To help reduce the pain, stress, and anxiety she was enduring, a Certified Child Life Specialist at DHR Health introduced Grace to Starlight programs and during a special celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, she received one of her favorite toys - a Barbie Doll! 

Blog Image – Grace

Throughout her hospitalizations, Grace was able to experience several different Starlight programs, including Starlight Gaming, Hospital Gowns, and Toy Deliveries, but her favorite program is Starlight Virtual Reality.

My favorite Starlight program is Virtual Reality! I love playing with it in the hospital before my lumbar puncture. It helps distract me from the medicine and procedure that is about to happen. It makes my visit more enjoyable knowing I get to use it.

- Grace

According to her mom, Starlight helped Grace forget for a moment what she was going through. She said it was important to see Grace feel some joy in the hospital setting - through simple Starlight programs like Hospital Gowns or Gaming.

They all helped her walk out of the hospital a little stronger.

- Rachel, Grace's mom

Since Grace started treatment two years ago, her cancer has been in remission. The 11-year-old sixth grader continues to take chemo pills daily and receives lumbar punctures every three months. However, she’s looking forward to ringing the bell this October, the day she will be declared cancer-free! 

We are thrilled to have Grace join our Starlight Ambassadors in 2023!

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