NIANTIC, Conn. -- The holidays bring such happy anticipation for many children, including 8-year-old Madeline Guarraia of Niantic. But all she wants for Christmas is to be cancer-free.
The oldest of three children, Madeline has only been without leukemia for one Christmas since she was four years old. After being declared cancer-free in October 2013, following a 4.5-year bout with leukemia, she found out last Saturday that she has cancer again.
The "C" word is not something her parents have ever had to tiptoe around, though. Madeline's mother, Amie Guarraia, says even as a 4-year-old, Madeline wanted her doctors and parents to tell her the truth about her cancer.
"She wanted to know the medical name and the medical reason for everything that she was going through," said Mrs. Guarraia.
It's not surprising Madeline wants to be a veterinarian, in part due to an affinity for Tigers that she developed just prior to being diagnosed with leukemia the first time. Her parents bought her a life-sized tiger that Madeline named Sun Butter, who has provided unending comfort for her for four years
"When she started going back to school, it happened to be the day of the Halloween parade, and she was bald," recalled Amie Guarraia. "So, she dressed like a tiger and she felt totally brave."
Madeline has even worn her tiger costume to some procedures to give her strength. And, she has made it a point to collect tigers to send to sick children nationwide. "She says that the tigers give people strength," said Amie Guarraia.
It's possible Madeline will need a bone marrow transplant. But, there's only a 25 percent chance of finding a match within two siblings.
"If she didn't have a match, she would need to go to the bone marrow registry to save her life," said Madeline's mother. So Mrs. Guarraia is asking the public to consider becoming a marrow donor: "There are so many sick kids in this world, that are going to need a match. So, even if Madeline doesn't need one, you could be saving another life.
There are two ways one can donate bone marrow: either log on to www.bethematch.org or visit Madeline's elementary school, Lillie B. Haynes in East Lyme, which is holding a public bone marrow drive next Thursday, Dec. 18, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If a monetary donation is your preferred method of support, log on to the family's GoFundMe page.