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‘Amazing Grace’ survives, inspires

Celebrated poet Maya Angelou told Belmont English professor Dr. Amy Hodges-Hamilton something she’ll never forget: “All you need to pray, Amy, is ‘God, give me Grace.’”

And God has.

Grace Hamilton is fighting High-Risk Pre-B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a form of cancer with a name too long for any 3-and-a-half year old girl to handle.

It is also fairly treatable.

The treatment was difficult for both Grace and her parents to deal with, but, a year later, the beautiful word of remission is a better description for Grace’s status. However, this is only due to treatment, which, Hodges-Hamilton said, was “teaching her bone marrow to make blood cells.” Otherwise, her daughter would still be sick.

Grace was given an 88 percent chance of survival about a year ago when she was first admitted to the hospital over spring break 2011. She immediately began chemotherapy and had surgery that same week.

A year later, Grace wants nothing more than to go to Disney World to see her favorite princess. And she’ll be going, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Grace has had up and downs with her treatment, going from being a bubbly, silly, talkative and intelligent toddler to a quiet and withdrawn little girl in more pain than she can truly articulate.

However, she has been amazingly brave and known for her amusing, and occasionally surprisingly intelligent, comments.

A few days after she was diagnosed and began treatment, Hodges-Hamilton said, she asked her nurses to pray with her and said, “God is good, God is great, let us thank…umm…please help Gracie to feel better, aaamen.”

From the very beginning of the process, Grace has been levelheaded and optimistic about her condition. She and her parents call it her “crazy adventure” that will eventually lead her to Disney World.

Hodges-Hamilton doesn’t want people to focus solely on Grace’s story, however. She has learned just how vast the world of childhood cancer really is. The disease builds a sense of community, Hodges-Hamilton said.

“The idea of everyone for themselves – it doesn’t work when tragedy strikes,” she said.

Many updates she posts about Grace online also include stories of other children they have encountered with similar health issues, asking for prayers and sharing good or bad news.

While Hodges-Hamilton said she’d do anything to take this pain away from Grace, the only thing she can do is make it bearable for her daughter and do the best she can with what life hands them all.

Through this, she is starting to give back.

“It’s my only option,” she said.

Hodges-Hamilton will be a faculty adviser for the Children’s Miracle Network and will help Belmont students put on fundraising events like a dance-a-thon next spring.

Grace herself will be in treatment until she is 5 years old. By that time, will have been in treatment for half her life.

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