Local teen determined to help cousin battling cancer
By Valerie Franchi, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Friends and family of those diagnosed with a serious illness, especially those that live far away, often feel helpless to be able to offer assistance and support. But when she learned that her cousin was diagnosed with a tumor for the second time in four years, Shrewsbury teenager Alannah “A.J.” Laurence, 13, did not let distance deter her.
At just 5 years old, in 2008, Alannah's cousin Darcy Cassidy, 9, of Meridian, Texas, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She was treated at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., and was cancer free until March, when two tumors were discovered on her spine.
“The first time was really awful,” said Alannah's mother, Colleen Laurence. “It was miraculous that she survived.”
Darcy is 9 now and back at St. Jude's where she is undergoing radiation and experimental chemotherapy.
“I heard about it and felt really bad, since she was going through this a second time,” Alannah explained. “I was determined to do something to help.”
She decided to sell bracelets to raise money to help with some of the expenses burdening the Cassidy family, of which Darcy is one of four children.
“They are traveling back and forth from Texas to Tennessee,” Colleen said. “It's tough on the whole family.”
Alannah ordered 200 cause bracelets and for three weeks she sold them at lunches at her school, Oak Middle. She rallied five friends to help her sell the bracelets for $4 each.
She chose the color maroon because it was gender neutral, she said, and had the words “Pray for Darcy” written in cowboy-style font in honor of Darcy's home state. The bracelet also displays a small angel.
Thanks to the generosity of classmates, teachers and family members, Alannah raised $813 for Darcy and her family.
Technically the two girls are second cousins, since Darcy's mother and Alannah's father are cousins, but that doesn's make the family bond any less strong.
Alannah and her parents surprised Darcy's family with a check, as well as a copy of the flyer used to promote the sale and a letter about the fundraiser.
While the two cousins have not been able to talk recently, “her mom said Alannah is amazing and that [the money] really helped tremendously,” Colleen said. Some of the money was used to purchase new clothes for Darcy, since she has grown rapidly due to the use of steroids in her treatment.
“The last time I saw Darcy was last summer when she visited,” Alannah said. “We are hoping to see her this summer, but it depends on her health.”
The emotional support is just as important as financial and technological, maintains Colleen.
“Darcy needs as many prayers as technology,” she said.
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