First grader cheers herself on against cancer
She’s her own personal cheerleader.
Julie-Layton Bryan, a first grader at Straughn Elementary School, knows what it’s like to be the underdog – especially when the opponent is cancer.
Diagnosed with retinoblastoma at age 5, the pint-sized beauty queen/cheerleader/daddy’s little girl has always been candid about the disease that nearly stole her sight. Retinoblastoma is a rapidly developing cancer that develops in the cells of the retina, the light sensitive cells of the eye, and it is curable. Bryan’s mother, Stephanie, a teacher at Straughn High School, said the easiest way to explain the cancer is, “when you take a picture and you see someone with a red eye — that’s a healthy eye. When you see one that has white eyes, that’s retinoblastoma.”
To fight the disease, the family traveled to New York City – one of five treatment centers in the U.S., where Bryan was given chemotherapy treatments once every three weeks.
And it worked.
Trips were cut from three weeks to six weeks then to every 12 weeks. Today is one year to the day when Bryan began treatment , and the mother-daughter duo is in New York for a doctor’s visit. However, the most recent news is not so good.
“She had a hemorrhage in her eye about 18 weeks ago, and we’re here today to see if we can get a clear picture (of her eye),” Stephanie said. “The doctor said it could be because of two things – one, the tumor is back; or two, it’s a side effect from the chemo – and that’s what they’re leaning toward, but we won’t know until we can get a free view.”
And that happens today after the family had to reschedule their appointment because of the recent bomb scare in New York.
On Tuesday, the family was in Madison Square Park enjoying some people watching and a hotdog lunch. Julie-Layton said she’s “nervous” to hear the results but would never say that she was scared.
“I did get my doctor’s appointment changed until (today) ‘cause my doctor had gone somewhere out of town, and I think he was coming in to JFK, but some guy put gas in a car and the cops caught him, so they closed all the flights.
“But that’s OK,” she said. “I’m nervous anyway. I know if it’s good, we get to go home, but if it’s not good, I get treatment on Thursday. I don’t like that much. (Having cancer) is like having a lot of homework – it’s lots of work.”
“To not have to do treatments is like not having homework,” she said.
Then, there’s lots of time for fun stuff like dancing and cheerleading.
“Yeah, I played cheerleader this year,” she said. “It’s the funnest. My favorite is when we get down real low to the ground and whisper, ‘We’re from Straughn and we can be beat.’ Then we say it over and over, louder and louder – ‘WE’RE FROM STRAUGHN AND WE CAN’T BE BEAT.’ ”