Brooke Mulford, the popular and inspiring little girl who has fought cancer in the midst of a loving community since she was 4, has moved to New Jersey with her mother.
Amy Mulford and her 9-year-old sushi-loving daughter relocated so they’d be closer to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where Brooke is beginning a clinical trial with the investigational drug DFMO. She was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, cancer of the nervous system, five years ago.
Amy’s family lives there, and the drive to the hospital is only about 25 minutes, compared to three hours from Salisbury.
When Brooke was diagnosed after starting to limp Christmas Eve 2008, the cancer had spread throughout her body was at Stage 4.
She underwent 16 months of treatment. After nine months, her mother said, there was no evidence of the disease, but treatment continued because prognosis of neuroblastoma is poor, with a 30 percent survival rate.
Blond, green-eyed Brooke, who her mother calls a “foodie,” and whose first solid culinary delight was an avocado, was in remission three years and three months, then relapsed and is now considered terminal.
As she continues treatment, her mother is faithfully, deeply, hoping for a cure and drawing strength from her only child.
“She doesn’t really remember life before cancer. She had just turned 4 so she was so little. More of her life has been with cancer,” her mother said.
But Brooke isn’t the melancholy type and doesn’t ask, “why me?”
She did become upset when she realized she’d lose her hair again, but her mother got her a wig and, once, in support, shaved her own head so they could be bald together.
“She was upset at first, then a week later she said, ‘Mommy, I’m not sorry I got cancer and I’m not sorry it came back because a lot of good things have come out of it still,’” Amy Mulford said.
She credits community and family support for Brooke’s good nature, and especially Salisbury Christian School.
“As hard as it was to leave my friends and my home in Salisbury, leaving that school was so hard. There could not be more love in one place than in that school. The support we received from every teacher, every staff member, parent, kid. She walked through the door and she was surrounded by kids hugging her and loving her,” Amy said.
Among Brooke’s heroes is Bethany Hamilton, whose arm was bitten off by a shark, and whose story is told in the movie Soul Surfer.
“Brooke wants to meet her. She is very inspired by her,” Amy said.
How can a little girl of 9 be so brave in the turmoil of illness?
“I feel God is walking with her through this,” Amy said.
It was no accident, she said, that Brooke’s condition, originally misdiagnosed, flared when the family was visiting New Jersey. She was taken to the hospital in Philadelphia, and the family received the correct diagnosis and the child has been cared for by Dr. John Maris, a specialist.
Amy stays at the hospital with Brooke when she’s admitted for treatment and finds nights are most difficult.
“That’s when I think about everything going on. She keeps me too busy during the day,” Amy said.
“Her prognosis is never far from my mind. I just have to stay as hopeful as I can, to believe we’re going to have the miracle that we’re praying for, that they are going to find the miracle.
“I just have to hope that in the lab somewhere, there is a miracle cure waiting to get into a clinical trial.”
Reach Susan Canfora at email@example.com.