WATONGA, Okla. — The mail carrier with Aspen Kelly on his route has been extremely busy, delivering thousands of postcards and letter to her home.
“This is from George W. Bush and it’s addressed to me!” 13-year-old Aspen said, holding up an envelope with a grin.
The boxes of cards include postcards from actor Tom Hanks, singer Toby Keith, and TV host Steve Harvey.
“I asked for postcards for my birthday because I can’t go out into the world, and then it blew up,” she said.
Aspen has spent a lot of time in the past two years staying inside her house. She was diagnosed with leukemia around Thanksgiving in 2017. Her symptoms were headaches and joint pain so severe that her personality changed.
“She went from being super-sweet to everybody to snapping at people. She ended up getting into fights with some of her best friends, which wasn’t normal for her,” her mother Vanessa said.
“I remember it like yesterday, because those were some of the hardest things I’ve had to go through,” Aspen said.
Months into treatment, Aspen still hates needles, and she’s experiencing more extreme side effects.
The steroids she’s taken as part of her treatment have leached so much calcium from her hip bones, the bones became compromised. It was painful to walk, and now Aspen uses a wheelchair to prevent overuse injuries.
Dr. Anand Srinivasan, from Jimmy Everest Cancer Center, explains, “Her hip bones will heal, but she’ll need a lot of follow up appointments with bone doctors. Since she’s a growing teenager, we’ll need to ensure her height is not affected because of that.”
Dr. Srinivasan describes Aspen as delightful and one hundred percent teenager.
During a recent appointment, he chided Aspen about missing a few doses of her chemotherapy that comes in pill form.
“Aspen!” he said. “Don’t you dare miss another dose!”
He is holding her accountable, and the entire medical team at Jimmy Everest is committed to seeing Aspen heal and thrive.
Dealing with cancer certainly isn’t a party for Aspen, but she does cherish the bright spots like the boxes of postcards and an opportunity to meet her favorite band.
Members of “Why Don’t We” surprised Aspen when she visited a radio station recently. They continue to send her cards of encouragement.
“Our motto is be happy like Aspen, even when something bad happens to her, the next day she’s smiling because that’s how she stays strong,” Vanessa said.
With her happy spirit and encouragement from near and far, Aspen’s future is bright.