In May 2020, as the world grappled with the onset of a global pandemic, another health crisis was waged against an unsuspecting little girl from Marvin, North Carolina. Bright-eyed Elly, then five years old, was taken to the pediatrician when an arm ache persisted for nearly two weeks. After a routine blood check, Elly’s parents, Russ and Amy, received the call that no parent can ever prepare for. Elly had been diagnosed with B-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, one of the most common but serious forms of childhood cancer.
“It felt like all of the air was sucked out of the room, the world stopped turning, and there was no time to think or emotionally react,” recalled Russ and Amy Perlman. “We’re very fortunate that we didn’t have to uproot everyone to do treatment.”
In less than 36 hours following her diagnosis, Elly was admitted to Atrium Health Levine Children’s Hospital for a port placement to begin her cancer treatment. For the two and a half years that followed, Elly fought with the heart of a “princess warrior,” as she would call herself each morning before taking oral chemotherapy and steroids – a new part of her daily life.
As kids her age enjoyed the milestones of childhood, Elly endured countless heart scans and blood draws, multiple transfusions and bone marrow biopsies, and much more. She did so with the strength of a champion, completing kindergarten and first grade virtually, and eventually conquering the greatest feat of all – beating cancer.
Cancer not only affects the individual going through treatment – it affects the entire family. In Elly’s case, the journey made her family more unified than ever. Elly’s parents and her older brother, Chase, adopted the mantra “Fight Like El,” a phrase that took on a life of its own, bringing together her extended family of doctors, nurses, neighbors, and friends, in a unified front to get Elly across the finish line of her cancer journey.
Last August, Elly’s family and care team watched with gratitude and relief as Elly, their princess warrior, rang the bell to signify the end of her active cancer treatment. Though she still has a long road ahead to be declared completely cancer-free, Elly confidently faces each new day with courage and grace, inspiring everyone around her to do the same. Now, she begins an exciting new chapter as our 2023 Children’s Miracle Network Champion representing Levine Children’s Hospital!