Helping Miranda fight back
When doctors told Miranda Eckard and her parents that she has cancer, the 14-year-old stayed strong.
“Her mother and I were just sort of looking at the floor,” Miranda’s father, Danny, said, “but for the first hour, Miranda just peppered the doctor with questions. One after the other.”
Miranda was upset, but she quickly made the decision to fight it.
Two months ago, no one would have guessed that she was in anything less than perfect health. Last year she was a starting guard on the East Lincoln Middle School basketball team.
So when she came home less than a month into her high school career with a few small bruises on her legs, around Sept. 17, she told her parents that she was just clumsy.
“By Sept. 20th, there were probably 30 or 40 dime-sized bruises,” Danny Eckard said. “She was just lying on the couch and didn’t want to get up.”
A very rare cancer
Her doctors concluded from her initial blood work that she had leukemia, and for three weeks the family prepared themselves for the leukemia treatment. But then doctors found that her condition was much more complex.
“They said, ‘We misdiagnosed it. She does not have leukemia,’” Danny Eckard said. “Then in the next sentence they told us that she has a different type of cancer, and they know very little about it.”
Miranda has rhabdomyosarcoma, a very rare form of cancer that attacks the muscles. The American Cancer Society reports about 350 cases a year nationwide. As a comparison, the society has estimated there will be almost 45,000 new cases of acute lymphocytic leukemia in 2011, 240,000 cases of prostate cancer and 230,000 cases of breast cancer.
“Presbyterian (Hospital) said they only diagnose about two cases a year,” Danny Eckard said.
Miranda went through one treatment of chemotherapy for leukemia, and then came down with pneumonia and streptococcus, commonly known as strep throat.
“Unfortunately, there’s not a sort of standard protocol for this disease, because it is so rarely diagnosed,” Danny Eckard said.
Doctors have collaborated with Duke University Medical Center and outlined a 54-week plan for treatment.
“Miranda has always been very athletic, eaten very healthy. She’s just a healthy 14-year-old girl. It happened very quick – we didn’t have time to think about it, really,” Danny Eckard said. “It’s pretty scary when you read about it on the Internet. There’s only about a 30 percent survival rate.”
“I cried a lot when we found out,” Miranda said.
“She’s been very strong,” her father said.
Miranda is a smart young lady. She’s always made As in school. She’s an artist, and she plays piano and guitar. She wants to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and one day become an architect.
Danny and Miranda’s mother, Jennifer, will take her to Duke on Nov. 1 to get a second opinion from an oncologist there. “The doctor has been studying this type of cancer for eight years,” Miranda said.
She and her family have prepared themselves for the next year of treatment, and she was glad to be able to come home this week after spending nearly a month in the hospital.
And when she got there, she had a great surprise.
Community outpours support
Some of Miranda’s friends decorated her house with spider webs, witches and other Halloween decorations, complete with a big “Welcome home Miranda” sign on the front porch of their home in The Gates.
Her room has even more, with posters friends from school made.
One of Miranda’s best friends, Samantha Jarvis, said she’s been trying to help however she can.
“Whenever we visited her in the hospital, we tried to make her laugh, to help get her mind off of everything,” Samantha said.
She and many of Miranda’s friends from school have been wearing orange bracelets that read “How strong? M.E. Strong.”
The bracelets are on sale for $2 at the school’s main office, and the proceeds will help the Eckard family pay Miranda’s medical bills and also go to cancer research.
“The support has been almost overwhelming,” Danny Eckard said. “We had 150 people visit in the hospital in the first four days.”
Neighbors have been offering to care for the family’s pets and cut their grass. Friends have been text messaging Miranda with encouraging words and sending her Facebook posts.
And her godmother, Bridget Mitchell, is organizing a chicken dinner to raise money to help the family with medical expenses.
The dinner will take place at Lake Norman Lutheran Church, 1445 N.C. 16 N., Denver, on Nov. 19 from 4 to 8 p.m.
Tickets cost $10, which includes port-a-pit chicken, beans, slaw and dessert. There will also be a silent auction, and Mitchell said she’s still looking for donations for the auction. She’s also selling T-shirts – $12 for short-sleeve or $17 for long-sleeve.
Mitchell said she requests people to buy tickets in advance so they’ll have an accurate count on the number of plates they need.
“I can’t heal her, only God can heal her,” Mitchell said. “This is what I can do to help. It’s the only way I knew to help, and it’s something I can do.”
To buy tickets, contact Bridget Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-228-4034 or Whitney Rhodes at 828-302-7136.