Lancaster, CA – In March 2007, a little girl named Precious, who was six-years-old at the time, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a cancerous bone disease. Neighbors, teachers, and relatives noticed a difference in Precious’ play behavior. She limped, dragged her foot, and complained about pain in her leg. But she tried to hide it from her mother, Chemina Hanley.
“After about a month (of unusual behavior), I took her to the doctor,” Hanley said. “I figured, she was in first grade. She probably fell off the monkey bars or something.”
The doctor ran tests and found she had an abnormal growth in her leg. Hanley was referred to several specialists before Precious endured a biopsy. That is when she was diagnosed with cancer.
Her treatments started at Kaiser Hospital on Sunset, but Hanley was not satisfied. The family moved Precious to the City of Hope Cancer Treatment Centers in Duarte, where she showed improvement and experienced real change. But the journey was long, hard and draining.
A month after of Precious’ diagnosis, Hanley’s husband was in an accident that kept him from working for a year and a half. To make things even more complicated, Hanley was giving birth to her third child in August, when Precious went in for surgery.
“I was in the hospital here in Lancaster and Precious was down there, having surgery. I really just needed someone to be there with her,” Hanley said. Her husband traveled almost two hours four days a week to be with their daughter in the hospital, while family finances suffered tremendously and their lives became really difficult. “We needed help maintaining our household, our mortgage, (plus) our car broke down on us. And maintaining lights, gas, and every day things people do was a strain for us.”
Chemotherapy had also taken a toll on Precious. She lost her appetite; she lost a significant amount of weight, and her long thick hair fell out. Her confidence was shot and her body was tired.
The Hanley family worked tirelessly to boost the spirits of Precious, making financial sacrifices, missing out on sleep, and going through some emotional challenges.
“It was like watching an innocent person going through something. It’s like you have to watch it and there’s nothing you can do, because despite what your capabilities are, it’s not enough to change what they have to go through,” Hanley said, holding back tears. “She would look up to me and would say, ‘What (can you) do? Help me.’”
Precious is now in full remission, is healthy and enjoying life like a normal kid. After going through such a challenging few years, the Hanley family started a support group in Lancaster called the Precious Life Pediatric Cancer Support Group.
Every second and fourth Monday, families come together to confide in one another and share experiences.
“Sometimes people want to know what to expect, those who are initially going through it,” Hanley said.
The group provides information and resources for families as well as spiritual and emotional support. Local businesses and agencies like the Olive Garden and the Los Angeles County Mental Health Department, as well as private donors provide food, facilities and other necessities to families coping with cancer.
Hanley’s goal is to establish the group as a foundation so families can be financially supported.
“We want to offer the support here locally for the families that do not have the resources,” Hanley said.
The group meets at the American Cancer Society located at 1043 West Ave. M-4 in Palmdale from 6:30 to 8 p.m. For more information about the support group, call (661) 946-6919.