Getting a cancer diagnosis is devastating for anyone, but imagine being 13 and also being told the treatment that could save your life could take away your ability to be a mom one day.
That is what a young Elkhart girl is facing, and so she and her family took a drastic step.
Aine Bolmer's mom, Kelly Thompson, explains how what they thought was an injury went from bad to worse. "At first the doctor thought it was a pulled muscle that she injured in cheerleading."
He sent 13-year-old Aine to a sports medicine doctor who told Kelly, husband Justin and Aine that it was much worse than a pulled muscle. It was a tumor.
A biopsy last month revealed Aine had Ewing sarcoma.
It was a shock for a middle schooler who is active in the classroom, loves her Legos and is a proud member of the Westside Middle School cheerleading squad.
Before chemo started at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, Kelly indulged Aine and let her get her hair dyed blue. But after just two rounds, her hair was quickly gone.
Being in the hospital is no fun for anyone, but Aine passed much of the time with a favorite pastime: building with Legos.
She has 12 more rounds of chemotherapy, meaning Kelly and Aine are gone every two weeks for days at a time. It's been a struggle with three other daughters, especially at Christmas time. "I haven't been able to do any Christmas shopping. I've missed all the extra activities, the parades and everything."
Kelly says Aine's health is their priority, and the family is thankful for the gifts under the tree from the Shop with a Cop program.
But the gift the family most wants for Christmas is Aine's health.
In addition to battling cancer, doctors told Kelly and Aine that there was an 80 percent chance Aine's ovaries would no longer function. While she's just 13, "She's like a little mother hen, and we don't want her to lose that opportunity to have children. So a fertility team approached us and said, 'Hey, we have this new procedure and it's still under research, but we think she's a good candidate for it.'"
And it was something Aine wanted to do. She had an ovary removed prior to chemo, even though insurance will not pay for it.
"No matter what, we're going to figure out how to do it because I'm not going to let the cost of anything keep my daughter from having the chance to be a mother," Kelly says.
That's where Cancer Resources for Elkhart County comes in. All donations go to helping families dealing with a cancer diagnosis.
This year for Christmas they are helping raise funds to pay for Aine's experimental ovary removal so Aine can have children later in life, if she chooses.
Executive Director Peter Norton says that while they usually help clients with their prescriptions and insurance issues, this is a first for Cancer Resources. "When Kelly said that they wanted to take her ovaries so that someday she'll be able to have children, I just thought that's a way we're going to help her probably change her whole life."
It's a gift the family feels blessed with this holiday season.
"She's really strong, really brave," Kelly says of her daughter. "I know when she gets older she's going to be a great artist, a great mom."
For now Aine is mom to a "baby" she affectionately calls Mr. Gecko, but she is hoping to beat the cancer she's fighting and one day use the ovary doctors retrieved to have a baby of her own.
She's praying the new year brings her health and getting back to what 13-year-olds should be doing: "More activities, doing cheerleading and going back to school with my friends."
If you would like to help Aine's dream of becoming a mom when she grows up, you can donate to Cancer Resources for Elkhart County, her GoFundMe account, Cheering for Aine, and at area businesses.
Most of all, the family would appreciate your prayers for Aine's full recovery.
You can also look for donation boxes at Saddle Up Saloon in Mishawaka, Marco's Pizza in South Bend and in Aine's name at PNC Bank.