KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Four-year-old Maddie Fox and her family have been practicing social distancing long before the rest of us, for most of her life.
She was diagnosed with high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age 2.
“We’re used to this whole isolation thing,” her mom Emily said. “Ever since she has been diagnosed we’ve been isolated. We don’t allow people in our house and things like that.”
She’s been going through chemotherapy for 2 and a half years at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.
She had just gotten to a point where it was safe for her to go to pre-school, but now the coronavirus outbreak is just another thing for her family and all at risk patients to worry about.
“Just going to chemo on Friday, I was very anxious. We hadn’t been out anywhere and going into public. I wouldn’t let her touch anything,” Fox said.
Friday also marked a special day for Maddie: her last day of chemo.
Breast cancer survivor Nicole Elliott’s last day was Monday. Usually there’s a big celebration at the hospital, but Elliott rang her bell in solitude for safety.
“We’re all going through this. We’re all missing things and wanting to get together and do things,” Elliott said, understanding the situation.
But friends of both the little girl and the mother of three, who live some two hours apart, weren’t OK with letting COVID-19 get the best of those celebrations.
“There’s so much support right now; everyone is so excited. I think everyone is just excited to get out of their house, too,” Elliott’s friend Tara Comfort said.
“We have people that are in the back of their trucks and stay apart from each other, but drive by and really celebrate Nicole,” Kelly Swan said of the surprise celebration plan.
And celebrate they did, both in Lenexa, Kansas, and Union Star Missouri, where 91 cars drove by in the town of 430 people honking and waving.
“To see the amount of people who really care and wanted to put a smile on her face and our face, it was absolutely incredible,” Emily Fox said.
As friends and neighbors drove by Elliott’s home, she rang the bell. Supporters rang their bells with her, marking a big step in any cancer patients’ journey.
“I absolutely have no words. This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. I had no idea this was happening,” Elliott said.
Both Maddie and Elliott have plenty of follow-up scans and possible procedures ahead of them. It will be a delicate balance for their doctors between avoiding putting them at unnecessary risk of exposure and making sure they are getting the best care possible.