Riding high after kicking kidney cancer

Part of her recovery was due to her unrelenting positive attitude.

“She would wake up and look out the window and say, ‘It’s going to be a great day today, Momma!’ ” said Elizabeth’s mother, Angela Eastham.

This attitude and the expert pediatric care at Children’s Medical Center pulled Elizabeth through the challenge of losing a kidney to cancer, but she never lost her sunny outlook.

The 6-year-old kindergartener loves to paint pictures of flowers, play in her backyard and ride horses once a week at Campfire Creek Therapeutic Riding Center in Waxahachie.

“It was just a feeling of peace she would find when she was up on the horse. She said it made her feel free,” Mrs. Eastham said, while watching her daughter ride with her instructor. “The worst of chemo was real hard on her, but when she got up on that horse, she was so happy.”

As her mother spoke, Elizabeth held herself firm in the saddle and threw beanbags into a bucket her instructor held up. She cheerfully recited the rules: “If you miss they pick it up and make you do it again!”

Elizabeth said she wants to be a cowgirl with her own horses, and no less than 11 horses will do.

The scenes at the riding center are a cheerful slice of Texas culture and childhood fun, but Elizabeth’s bout with cancer was not easy.

Mrs. Eastham said she noticed that her daughter, then 4, would walk bent to the side, as if she was nursing a pain.

“I felt a lump like the size of my fist,” she said. She took her to the family’s pediatrician who told her, “Don’t go home; go straight the hospital.”

At Children’s Medical Center Dallas a CT scan revealed a tumor on her kidney the size of a softball.

Elizabeth weathered several surgeries, 40 weeks of chemotherapy, two weeks in ICU and even a near heart failure.

It was a tough time, but Elizabeth’s attitude remained positive as she turned her attention to enjoying art therapy, clowns from the hospital’s Funnyatrics program and a special dog from the Pet Therapy program.

Mrs. Eastham said the doctors and nurses treated Elizabeth like she was their own.  The experience gave her tremendous confidence in Children’s and a new level of confidence in a family’s ability to pull through a difficult time.

“Love can conquer so many things,” she said. “And love never fails.”

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