On the wall above an angel and heart emoji sits a beautiful gold bell in the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital Outpatient Care Center in Tampa. It’s where magical moments happen. It’s where kids battling cancer celebrate a huge milestone — completing chemotherapy. Today is 5-year-old Willow’s time to shine.
“Willow was so excited — it was great. She’s so young I wasn’t sure if she would understand the meaning behind it, but she really did,” says Willow’s mom, Jennifer.
Willow and her big sister, Eden, wear custom-made T-shirts — a gift from a beloved family member. Willow’s reads, “Some days I’m a princess. Every day I’m a warrior,” and Eden’s: “Her fight is my fight.” Their dad holds Willow in his arms. Jennifer and Eden stand next to them. As everyone gathers around the bell, a symbolic poem is read by nurse Louise James and Jennifer’s eyes fill with tears of happiness.
Willow rings it once. Twice. And gives it one final “ding!” for good measure.
“I felt relief, happiness and gratitude that we’ve come this far. It was everything I’d hoped it would be,” Jennifer says.
The sound of the bell brings Willow’s story full circle. It all began two years ago when Hurricane Irma was barreling down on St. Petersburg and Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in September of 2017. She was newly diagnosed with pre-b cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (pre B-ALL), but it was also her third birthday — and she had quite the celebration.
It was followed by exactly 800 days of doctor appointments, hospitalizations and chemotherapy. But Willow and her family never gave up, and they made it to this final moment where one chapter ends and another one begins.
“Willow is a really happy kid,” Jennifer says. “She’s really persevered and we are so grateful for our team, everyone that cared for Willow. I hope Willow’s story continues to help and inspire other families that have to face this battle.”