If her enormous, sparkling blue eyes don’t get you, her adorable, slightly mischievous smile will. Mary Perkins lights up a room.
“I just turned 5,” Mary tells the group of grown-ups standing in the hospital elevator with her and her parents, John and Kim. “I used to be 4.”
Not one to be shy, Mary proudly shows off her bright red dress shoes – the only thing she wanted for her birthday. Well, except for the party and two birthday cakes, one decorated with Ariel from Disney’s Little Mermaid and one with Winnie the Pooh.
“That’s all she talked about, those red shoes,” Kim says. “We had to get them for her. How could we not?”
After all, these are the things Mary should be consumed with at her age – Disney princesses, and new shoes…and maybe butterflies and preschool, too. But it wasn’t always this way. For much of her young life, Mary battled a cancerous brain tumor.
At age 2, Mary began to display some odd symptoms and her parents became concerned. She couldn’t smile fully and her hands began to shake. Over the course of a week, she could no longer hold a cup. Mary’s pediatrician recommended that she go to Cincinnati Children’s for tests. That’s when they discovered that Mary had a baseball-size tumor in the frontal lobe of her brain.
“We were devastated. We didn’t really know what this meant for Mary’s future. We only knew that we couldn’t lose our little girl,” Kim says.
Mary’s initial stay in the hospital was 40 days. All told, she spent more than 150 days at Cincinnati Children’s, where she had three surgeries and aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
“We are so grateful that Mary received care at Cincinnati Children’s. It’s one of the best pediatric medical centers in the nation,” Kim says. “They took great care of Mary and our entire family.”
John and Kim say the nurses, doctors and other caregivers kept them well informed, which allowed them to focus their energy on being there for Mary. And they went way above and beyond to make sure Mary was healthy emotionally as well as physically.
“Every time Mary went to the playroom, one of the child life specialists would decorate her room with butterflies,” John recalls. “Mary loves butterflies, and it made her so happy.”
Mary finished her treatments on July 26, 2007, but she still visits Cincinnati Children’s for regular check-ups. Today, Mary remains cancer free.
“There were moments we didn’t know if we would ever see days like today, and we do not for a second take them for granted,” John says.
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