It has been such an honor to capture the love of this family. Rita is a vibrant 8 year old little girl local here to Cumming, Ga. I wish everyone could see the world through Rita's eyes. I'm pretty sure her version of it is rainbow colored, unicorn riding and raining skittles! Her laugh and smile is infectious. Her bravery is unparalleled. She is a fighter and LOVED fiercely by her family and everyone who meets her. Below is her story in her Mom April's words.
Please keep this family in your prayers.
Rita was so excited to start the 2nd grade this past August. She had spent the summer working on backbends, cartwheels and all kinds of splits. She had grown a bunch, too.
She had been experiencing some occasional back pain when laying down in bed at night. But, she always slept well and woke up everyday happy and feeling great. Looking back now, I see some signs but it was so easy to dismiss them as growing pains and thinking she just stretched herself too much doing gymnastics. She has always been an incredibly healthy, active and happy kid!
Those first few days of school she was clumsy. She had even fallen and scuffed up her knee pretty bad. She had been wearing new school shoes which were a little big. Her teacher noticed and encouraged her to try some different shoes but that didn’t help. I noticed something wasn’t right when I saw her walk barefoot, which we now know she was experiencing something called dropped foot. The next morning, August 9th, she expressed that a part of her foot was numb. I took her to a doctor that day and found out she had scoliosis…her spine looked curved. We immediately took her to the emergency room as she was too young to have scoliosis and it didn’t explain why she was clumsy.
Rita was admitted into CHOA that night. The MRI the next day showed she had a large tumor inside her spinal cord stretching the length of her entire back. She spent the next 5 weeks at CHOA having 3 surgeries to biopsy and remove as much tumor as possible without paralyzing her. She then did rehabilitation to gain her strength back and learn to walk again.
It’s taken us time to work through the shock of her diagnosis and to understand it. Thankfully, her type of tumor is not considered malignant. But her doctors still consider it cancer by location because it could grow or spread within her spinal cord and brain and become life threatening if not stabilized.
In October, she started a chemotherapy/mec inhibitor trial which involved taking a pill twice a day. We had high hopes for this newer form of treatment. Unfortunately, an MRI in January showed her tumor had significant growth and her team of doctors felt the drug was not working. She now has a chemotherapy port in her chest and is going to CHOA for weekly chemo infusions. Her next MRI is in April and we are praying this treatment is stabilizing her tumor. We have been told the goal of chemotherapy is to prevent her tumor from growing and that we shouldn’t expect it to shrink….that’s a hard thing to accept and we continue to pray for this tumor to go away.
Rita also has scoliosis and kyphosis as a result of the tumor and surgeries. She has a nighttime back brace that she wears in hopes of correcting and preventing more curving and goes to weekly physical therapy too.
Rita has shined so bright through all of this. Her attitude and love for life is contagious. We have been overwhelmingly humbled by all the love, support and prayers we have received throughout this journey.
We loved every second of this very special photoshoot and are so incredibly grateful to Amy Jo and all those involved in making it happen💗