Willow's Winning Year

Three years after going viral on her birthday when a hurricane interrupted at Johns Hopkins All Children’s, Willow turned 6 (and still loves Frozen).

Willow celebrating her 5th birthday in 2019

Willow celebrating her 5th birthday in 2019

Published in Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital - Winter 2021

Every child’s cancer diagnosis is horrible. In Willow’s case, add in the timing of it taking place just before her third birthday — during Hurricane Irma when her dad and sister couldn’t be with her during initial treatment — and it’s even worse.

The team at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital stepped up in September 2017 to make the day special for Willow and her mother, Jennifer, with a Frozen-themed mini-party. A video capturing the moment went viral after getting picked up by CNN.

All Better

Thankfully, three years later, Willow is in remission from her pre-B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (pre B-ALL). Her last chemotherapy round wrapped up in November 2019, and her port was removed one month later. Now, she’s excited about planning her sixth birthday party.

“The staff at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital could not have been better,” says Jennifer, who lives in Wesley Chapel. “I can’t even begin to tell you about all the support we’ve received over the years.”

The port removal was supposed to be the beginning of Willow finally returning to her pre-cancer normal childhood. But then the coronavirus pandemic hit — although thankfully not before the family saw Frozen 2 in the theater.

“I think Willow and her sister have watched it a million times,” Jennifer says. “They know all the words to both movies.”

Pandemic Changes

Willow was supposed to start kindergarten in the fall, but she and her sister are taking classes online from home for now to protect her immune system.

“We’re disappointed that things didn’t go back to normal because of the pandemic, but we are making the best of it,” Jennifer says. “We’ve had lots of art activities, nature walks and swimming. No matter the situation, we are so grateful for Willow’s good health and progress over the last year.”

The family continues clinic visits. In the meantime, the family held a small sixth birthday celebration — the first one in three years without chemotherapy on the guest list. They auditioned a number of themes along the way from YouTube star JoJo Siwa and her signature giant hair bows to unicorns to Hello Kitty to rainbows.

“We are all girly over here,” Jennifer laughs. “And we’re so thankful that Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital saved Willow’s life.”

Visit hopkinsallchildrens.org/giving to learn more about ways to support cancer treatment at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. This story first appeared in For the Kids, a magazine published by Johns Hopkins All Children’s Foundation.