By KATHRYN ACREE
Eleven-year-old Ally Nelson’s fight began with a limp noticed by her mother, Christina, in March. Ally said it didn’t bother her too bad, but by the time the family went out of town for spring break, the pain in her thigh was no longer something to be ignored.
The original diagnosis based on her x-rays was tendonitis, and the Nelsons were advised to give her ibuprofen and to stretch out her leg for three weeks. After a week and a half, Ally’s limp grew worse. Her mom noticed she had lost muscle mass in her left thigh and now had swelling.
They scheduled an MRI that was supposed to take 30 minutes. The procedure took two hours. That’s when doctors found a tumor that extended from her left thigh down to her knee.
Ally was soon diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer. She started chemotherapy within days after the diagnosis.
The Nelsons’ life changed literally overnight.
Her mom took a leave of absence from her job as a pediatric nurse to be with Ally throughout her treatment. Her dad, Charles Nelson, who goes by Trey, is able to work from home in Chelsea to help keep her little brother, 15-month-old Alijah, and rotate out being with Ally when he can.
Ally lost her hair, and her mom also chose to shave hers and keep it short.
But Ally’s medical condition is not the only thing that stands out about her.
“Ally has a gentle, kind spirit about her that draws her teachers and friends to her,” said Val Harvey, whose daughter Emma is friends with Ally. “She is a very smart girl who is fighting the battle of her life.”
Ally’s best friends and their families joined with Chelsea Middle counselors to promote a “Rally for Ally.” Her classmates at CMS held lemonade stands to raise awareness and funds for her care. Cotton candy was sold as a fundraiser for her at a school outdoor event called Organized Chaos, similar to field day. Ally’s supporters have become what her mom calls their “surrogate family,” as their immediate family lives in Ohio.
“It’s amazing the outpouring of people that didn’t know us personally before but have jumped in to bring food or just call to pray with us or to be of support in any way they can,” Christina Nelson said. “I think it’s a testament to who Ally is in her character. Ally is such a sweet girl; she’s amazing and inspires us on a daily basis.”
Ally’s treatment at Children’s Hospital involved a five-week course of chemo in ten weeks to shrink the tumor; from there, limb salvage surgery repaired her damaged thigh and removed the bone with the tumor. A prosthetic bone was put in its place in June. Depending on tests after the surgery, her chemo treatment will continue until either October or January.
“We have been so thankful that Ally has had no nausea with the treatments so far; they just make her very tired,” Nelson said.
A straight-A student, Ally was able to finish up her sixth grade year in May by having work sent home to the family. Next year she will have a home-bound teacher.
Her family is looking forward to Ally having the strength to once again enjoy the things she loves: singing, dancing, writing songs and sketching out fashion designs.
The doctors at Children’s Hospital have told the Nelsons that Ally would know if the chemo treatments were working before anyone else would.
“I think she’s responding well to her course of care,” Nelson said. “Ally’s able to move her leg better, and the swelling has gone down. Her numbers have been great, and that is all we’ve hoped for.”
You can follow Ally’s story at CaringBridge.org by searching AlexandraNelson and at www.facebook.com/PrayersForAllyNelson. A fund to help support the costs of Ally’s medical care has been established at Cadence Bank under “Christina Nelson- tragedy fund for Ally Nelson;” the bank’s Chelsea branch is located at 104 Chelsea Pointe Drive and can be reached at 678-6801.
Update, June 26, 2012: Ally has learned that she has been 90 percent responsive to chemotherapy. She will finish her treatments by Thanksgiving this year.