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Brother’s marrow gift helping sister to heal

November 25, 2018

Olivia Stoy’s return home from treatment at Riley Hospital for Children came with new household rituals this fall.

The Stoys remove their shoes and cleanse their hands with sanitizer before entering their Steuben County home. They also wash their hands frequently, stay away from Olivia if sick and : per doctors’ orders : welcome healthy visitors in small doses.

The precautions made for an atypical Thanksgiving : the household is usually filled with extended family for the holiday : but they are necessary in the wake of Olivia’s summer bone marrow transplant in her fight against a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“Olivia has no immunity at all,” mother Megan Stoy said.

There is good news, however. Along with a medical scan showing Olivia is cancer-free, a test indicates the 14-year-old has 100 percent donor cells. She needed those cells : provided by her 7-year-old brother, Preston : because hers didn’t recognize cancer cells to fight them off, she said.

“I wouldn’t say I’m out of the woods yet,” Olivia said. But, she added, “We’ve gotten through the worst part so far, I think.”

Olivia has countless cheerleaders.

Fundraising efforts to offset Olivia’s medical bills garnered local and national media attention. Activities included a GoFundMe campaign, a block party in downtown Angola in June, Liv It Up T-shirts and sales of a bracelet Olivia designed in conjunction with Emily Bryan, who owns an accessory business in Fort Wayne.

“I still get a lot of cards and gifts, which is amazing,” Olivia said.

Olivia wants to pay the community’s generosity forward.

Her Liv It Up initiative, which was created out of fundraising necessity, now has board leadership and intends to help families like Olivia’s : those with children suffering from cancer or other life-threatening illness. Applicants may request funding for family activities that provide some normalcy, such as a dinner at a nice restaurant, an outing to the zoo or trip to Disney World.

“We wanted to help kids have a fun time and forget about the medical part of cancer,” Olivia said.

For Olivia, a recent family outing to a favorite restaurant in Auburn was a highlight. It marked the first time in four months that she dined out.

“I had been looking forward to that night,” Olivia said, noting she can venture outside her home but wears a mask to most places.

An Angola High School freshman, Olivia is keeping up with her education through online classes. She will benefit from homebound instruction next semester, meaning teachers will visit her house, she said.

Her experience with cancer has made her career aspirations clear: Olivia wants to pursue medicine. Becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner : perhaps one who works on the oncology floor : is especially appealing, she said.

Those following Olivia’s journey on social media have some insight about the realities of battling cancer. Along with cheerful photos, her Facebook posts are peppered with updates about the unpleasant side: enduring nausea, feeding tubes, mouth sores, pain in her stomach, feet and hands, painful skin conditions and painful swallowing.

Her post-transplant treatment has included physical therapy to rebuild her strength and chemotherapy as a preventive measure to destroy any residual cancer cells, she and her mother said.

Sharing Olivia’s ups and downs isn’t a ploy for pity but a way to bring awareness to childhood cancer, they said.

“I want people to see how raw things are,” her mother said. ” ... We want a cure for it.”

asloboda@jg.net

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