LYNDONVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) — When Ella Suhr was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at just four months old, her small town stepped up to help in a huge way. And now, nearly four years later, the 4-year-old is showing the power of strength and giving back.
Today, Ella loves reading with her mom and she’s also a big sister, to 20-month-old Brodie. But it hasn’t been an easy road for the toddler. At just four months old, Ella was diagnosed with Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumor, stage four.
“They were like, ‘Your daughter has a huge mass on her brain,” her mother Maegan Suhr said. “I just remember being like, What?”
Within 12 hours of the diagnosis, Ella was getting brain surgery.
“When we found out, that was the lowest I’ve ever been in my life,” Joe Suhr said, Ella’s dad.
As Ella fought for her life, Lyndonville fought to help. Neighbors mowed the Suhr’s lawn, cooked them meals and then did something the family will never forget. The staff at Lyndonville Central Schools, where Joe works as a social studies teacher, pooled their sick time to give him an entire school year off.
“Throughout this whole journey there were so many people: strangers and friends, family, co-workers, who just stepped up to the plate and helped us out when we were in need,” Maegan said. “Any time there’s an opportunity to give back, that’s what we want to do.”
By telling Ella’s story now, the Suhr’s hope to be a reminder of the impact giving back can have on a family. And that good will doesn’t always mean giving up your sick time, or handing out money. It can be as simple as donating blood.
Ella has a token from the hospital called, ‘Voyage Beads,’ that help her remember everything she went through. The necklace, with dozens of colored beads, tells the story of her fight. Each red bead represents a blood transfusion. There are 23 red beads in all. Ella, who’s type O negative, relied on blood nearly two dozen times to survive.
“There were times they were like, ‘We don’t know if we’re going to be able to get it in today, or get it as quickly as we want it,'” Joe said. “That’s an added stress that no one should have to go through.”
The black beads on the necklace represent tough days for the family, but the one on the end that says, ‘survivor,’ is the most important in the bunch.
After seven months of pain, struggle and a big unknown, Ella was able to ring her victory bell. Today, she goes back to the hospital for check-ups just twice a year. she’s in nursery school now, learning how to overcome some side effects from chemotherapy on her little body, but there’s no sign of cancer. Her parents call her a miracle.