Two Northwest girls who'll wear new clothes at Sunday's Runway for Research walk have endured the fear and physical pain of cancer, and its treatment.
Today, Amelia Brueggemann and Ashley Jones are bright, happy children. Their mothers are proud, and grateful.
"It makes you count your blessings in whatever way you can," said Stephanie Brueggemann, mother of 6-year-old Amelia.
"All we can say is we're blessed and we're fortunate," said Mary Jones, mother of 14-year-old Ashley.
Amelia Brueggemann was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age 3. Today, she's 6, has completed chemotherapy, is in remission, plays soccer and is in the first grade at Wilson K-8 School.
"She's doing great," said her mom, Stephanie. "She finished chemo last March, and we're working at getting her healthy."
Ashley Jones was 9 when she was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia. Today, she's 14, approaching a fourth year of remission. The Coronado School eighth-grade student is a straight-A student, a member of the Oro Valley Explorers teen police academy, a dancer, a piano student and a youth leader at her church who wants to help others.
Stephanie Brueggemann remembers Amelia's diagnosis. "It was pretty scary," she said, and yet "we were very blessed she had that type. When they came back with the diagnosis, the nurses were cheering, because that's the most curable. You're like, 'OK, this is a good thing, I guess.'"
While she's not on medication, and is in remission, Amelia has monthly blood draws, and there've been "some ups and some downs," Stephanie said. Her blood is examined for various cell counts that measure the strength of her immune system, and it's been difficult to hit the desired numbers. "You're keeping your fingers crossed when you go in," Stephanie said. "I had assumed it would be much easier after chemo, that every time, she'd be getting healthier. Her body is learning to reproduce cells again."
The Brueggemann family includes sister Elyse, 10, and husband and father Michael. The family "definitely pulled together," Stephanie said. "It can make your family stronger. We knew we were going to take this challenge on and fight it and do everything we could for Amelia."
Ashley Jones' illness began with severe, unrelenting migraine headaches. Brain scans didn't reveal a cause. Then, when the family was moving and was in a motel one night, Mary counted more than 40 bruises on her child, and soon more than 50. An initial diagnosis gave her three weeks to live. Then physicians determined the disease to be APL, with a higher chance of recovery. Aggressive chemotherapy treatment began.
Ashley has a sister, Savannah, now 8. Her father is Kevin. "We're a pretty tight little foursome," Mary said, "and the girls are very close.
"We're so proud of where she's come," Mary said. "Mini" strokes meant Ashley had to "re-learn things over and over. She had to start from ground zero, basically. She has worked so hard."
The Jones family is pleased to "help anybody else break through those struggles," Mary said. Ashley "loves to do anything that helps others." She realizes "it's hard for anybody to go through it. We know others that are still struggling, and you hurt for them."
Ashley is excited about Sunday. She "loves her designer, Pam Scroggins," herself a breast cancer survivor. "Those two have clicked wonderfully," Mary said.
Amelia was in the Runway for Research show a year ago, and is "really looking forward to it" again, Stephanie said.
"The kids, they have so much fun doing it," dancing about the stage, Stephanie said.
Runway for Research
Children who've battled cancer, and some of their siblings, model designer clothes
Sunday, Nov. 15, 2 p.m.
Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Resort, Oro Valley.
Tickets are $20. Call the Tee Up for Tots office at 275-3733. The web sites are runwayforresearch.org and
Show raises money, spirits
This Sunday afternoon, more than 50 children between the ages of 2 and 18 will walk the runway at the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Resort in Oro Valley.
The young people have, or have had cancer, or have helped a sibling through the struggles of life-threatening disease. They’ll wear clothes designed by The Art Institute of Tucson, helping them shine in the third annual Runway for Research charity fashion show.
The show’s purpose is two-fold:
* To raise money to help support the Pediatric Cancer Research unit of the Steele Children’s Research Center at The University of Arizona. “Great strides are being made in this area by doctors and researchers at the Steele Children’s Research Center, including better therapies for kids with cancer and an innovative anti-cancer vaccine,” a release said;
* And to give young cancer victims an opportunity to feel good, wearing and modeling designer outfits created especially for them instead of the hospital gowns they so often wear. Young models get to keep the outfits designed for them by The Art Institute of Tucson and local designers and seamstresses.