Abigail has always had a special appreciation for the Arkansas Children's mission. Her mom, Tammy, an RN and director of Acute Care Services, has worked at Arkansas Children's since before Abigail was born.
Tammy recalls with pride a philanthropic gesture her daughter made for her 12th birthday—as one of 12 random acts of kindness, Abigail donated her entire savings to the hospital.
“It was only $200,” says Tammy, “but it was every penny she had.”
Abigail also couldn't wait to be eligible for Arkansas Children's junior volunteer program for teens. But when she applied as a Central High freshman last spring, neither she nor her family had any idea how much deeper her connection with the hospital was about to become.
A track athlete, Abigail had begun complaining of swelling and pain around her right ankle. Shortly after, her dad Isaiah took her to the doctor for an exam. Isaiah remembers making that difficult, urgent phone call to Tammy, who was in the middle of a professional retreat: the X-rays had revealed something much more serious than a sports injury.
One of Tammy's team members calmed and comforted the distraught mom as she drove to pick up Abigail's younger brother, Isaiah (named after his dad), from school before making their way to the clinic. The doctor told the family he thought there was a good chance Abigail had a fast growing sarcoma--a highly malignant tumor.
Abigail was admitted to the emergency department at Arkansas Children's for an MRI that evening, and had a bone biopsy the next morning. The findings were alarming.
Just a few weeks before her 15th birthday, Abigail was diagnosed with chondroblastic osteosarcoma-an aggressive cancer that calls for an aggressive treatment plan. She began chemo within a few weeks, and underwent a below-the-knee amputation on her right leg a few months later.
"Abigail is a rock star," says her mom. "She's never asked, 'why me?' She says this is a part of her story, but not her whole story. And if she can help anyone else along or after her journey, that's what she wants to do. Abigail's taught me more than any other life experience how to deal with hard things.
At the time of her diagnosis, Abigail was an extremely active young woman. In addition to track, she was involved with numerous school clubs and took all pre-AP classes, which are college-level classes taken usually by freshmen.
Post-diagnosis, Abigail is busier than ever.
In between her treatment cycles last summer, Abigail fulfilled her dream of being an Arkansas Children's junior volunteer. She has worked diligently at her schoolwork, going above and beyond to stay at an advanced-placement level.
“Abigail’s heart’s desire is to be able to say that she’s cancer-free,” says Tammy. “Not in remission…cancer-free.”