All she wants to do is, all she wants to do is…

I’d like you to meet Gabi.

Gabi is the daughter of one of my friends and former employee, Debbie.  In March of 2011 I received a phone call from Debbie hysterically explaining that after a very routine MRI to see if Gabi had broken her leg from an ice skating fall, a tumor had been discovered.  The word “cancer” rang through the phone.  I have tried to mentally bleach the memory I have of that phone call, of Debbie’s voice, so panicked, so terrified, so shocked.  It is unable to be erased, it is too vivid for the brain to release.

A facebook post from her father, Andy, with the simple phrase,

“Dear God, please heal my child,”

brought us all to our knees.

Gabi was quickly diagnosed with Osteosarcoma.  She began treatments in what seemed like seconds.  The little beauty that you see in the above picture entered treatment like a warrior.  Her hair fell out, she became weak, she ended up in the hospital on more than one occasion simply because the treatment aimed to cure her disease was also weakening her body’s good cells.

Our town rallied around her.  Not simply in a few cards and well wishes.  They geared up with the full armor of protection for this child.  Through prayer requests,  charity runs and dinners, gifts that filled their home and monetary donations, they wrapped their arms around Gabi and her entire family and looked the cancer in the eye fearlessly.  Enveloped is the only word that can describe what happened to this family when they were embraced by our community.   They live just down the street from me and it was hard not to imagine actual arms embracing their home whenever I drove past.  It was a beautiful reminder in this age of electronic communication that people still function from the heart.

Treatments continued and the difficult decision was made to proceed with a relatively new and radical surgery called a Rotationplasty.  It is too complex to describe here but below is an amazing video from The Mayo Clinic that describes it wonderfully.  It is one of those procedures that makes you gasp in amazement at someone’s ability to look at the human body and see how it could be used differently.  I challenge anyone to watch this video and not be overwhelmed with the medical brilliance.

To make this decision, Debbie did what Debbie does.  She poured into the research.  She called families, she talked to doctors and prosthetics specialists and she read…and she read…and she read.  In true Debbie-style, not a stone was unturned.  If she was making a decision that, in simplicity, involved amputating her child’s leg, she wouldn’t do it blindly…or even slightly blurry.  It would be with full clarity and knowledge and they, as a family, wouldn’t look back.  Full steam ahead.

Now, meet Gabi’s sisters in this family pic from last Christmas…Maria, Ally, and Christina.

They, along with Gabi, are a “dance family.”  They have danced since the time they started walking.  They dance beautifully, all with different styles but all with amazing talent.   What would happen to Gabi’s dancing future after her surgery?  No one knew, but saving her life, of course, came first.

In fact,  I remember talking to Debbie at the dress rehersals for the 2011 Centerstage Dance Recital.  She stated that the goal was to have Gabi dancing again for the 2013 recital.  2013…

After the life-altering surgery, Gabi went full force into rehabilitation to learn to function with her “new normal.” It was difficult and exhausting and frustrating but she never quit.  Walking comes before dancing, so walk she would…

Climb one mountain and see another, right?  What does Gabi do?  She keeps climbing.  Here she is, dancing on stage for the first time since her diagnosis.  2013…nope.  She went ahead and sped that goal up to 2012….and she was magnificent.

Thank you, dear Gabi, for reminding us all of the true meaning of perseverance. 

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