‘So much grace and happiness’: Guilford County mother raising funds for research after daughter dies of rare cancer

GUILFORD COUNTY, NC (WGHP) – At age 2, Cora Tew was full of laughter, a smile that could fill an entire room, and a love of being pushed in the swing by her bigger sister.

What her family didn’t know is that she would be diagnosed at such a young age and would eventually die of a rare form of childhood cancer known as rhabdomyosarcoma.

On February 14, 2019, Cora’s mother Shelby took her daughter to the doctor for a check-up for a knot in her daughter’s left knee.

“She was a very happy and playful person,” Shelby said of the days leading up to that visit. “I mean, she had no symptoms. We just found that knot in her leg that we thought was an injury. Within days we found out it was cancer.”

This rare cancer develops in about 400 children a year, more than half of whom are under the age of 10.

The cancer starts in the soft tissues of the bodies and then very quickly invades surrounding parts of the body. It’s like tentacles, it just reaches out.”

Children who get it have a 50% chance that the cancer will return after remission.

For the following months after the diagnosis, Cora and her family spent time in Ohio receiving treatment for her.

Her mother said it was the bravest thing she’d ever seen anyone do.

“She was sitting in this big old room at this table, tied up and getting radiation. Every day for 23 days, at age 3.”

In January 2020, Cora and her family received the news that every cancer patient wants to hear that the radiation treatment has been successful. Doctors could also have surgically removed the tumor.

While Cora was shy to ring the bell that has come to be known as the signal of hope after chemotherapy is over, her mother, sister and father stood next to her to encourage this moment.

Cora, who was four at the time, would undergo a series of remission checks to make sure the cancer hadn’t returned.

“At her first check-up, everything was negative for cancer,” Shelby said. During a second check-in in September 2020, doctors would discover that the cancer had returned and had begun to spread throughout Cora’s body.

“Microscopic cancer cells” still existed in Cora’s body.

At the time, doctors said that chemotherapy would only prolong Cora’s life and that there were no other treatment options to cure Cora’s cancer.

“I did my off-site research into alternative treatments because I knew that chemo wouldn’t be an answer and wouldn’t cure her. We were led to a peptide treatment we created for her from an Arizona clinic.”

In the last few months of her life, the peptide treatment stopped working to boost Cora’s immune system.

Her family was able to return to North Carolina, where Cora died on November 19.

Shelby said: “You have every day, even on a cancer journey, as long as they’re breathing and they’re here – make it a good day. Because we never knew we would lose her so soon.”

The tumor that was in Cora has been donated to research so that other families have a chance to beat this disease.

On Saturday, Cora’s family will hold a Celebration of Life ceremony at Summerfield First Baptist Church at 2300 Scalesville Road at 1:00 PM.

This is open to the public.

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