LOUISBURG, N.C. (WNCN) — – A Franklin County 8-year-old has dealt with more health challenges than many people experience in a lifetime, but her family is grateful for the support they’ve received and they hope their daughter’s story will encourage others facing their own struggles.
Grace Calamaco will turn nine in December. It’s a milestone her parents once feared they’d never see.
“In 2017, they found a malignant tumor growing in her head,” said her father, Joel Calamaco.
The news of Gracie’s brain cancer devastated her family.
“Even though she’s had issues in the past it’s never something you get used to,” Calamaco added.
The Calamaco family already knew the routine of surgeries and hospital stays. When Grace was just 4-months old doctors operated on a fluid-filled cyst in her brain.
She’s also dealt with developmental delays and seizures. Still, her cancer diagnosis left her family reeling.
Her father remembered grave words from the doctors treating Grace.
“It could be the last few moments or days or weeks we have,” he said. “We made a conscientious decision just to be there for her, just present.”
Her mom and dad stayed by her side through brain surgeries and months of treatment — a grueling experience, made even more heart-wrenching because Grace is nonverbal and can’t explain what she needs.
“She can’t express what she feels; you don’t know how bad it hurts,” her dad explained.
They all got through those difficult times, with the help of their faith, their medical team, and nonprofits like Children’s Cancer Partners of the Carolinas, which helped with expenses related to Grace’s treatments.
“The network of people who are willing to help, it’s a beautiful thing,” marveled Calamaco.
That is the message the Calamaco family wants to share: that there is help, and there is hope. It’s why they share Grace’s continuing journey on social media.
“I would consider myself a big macho guy, but in my solitude when I’m riding in the car, I cry of thankfulness,” said Calamaco. “I’m blessed — me and my wife are so blessed.”
Five years after her tumor was found, Gracie still deals with some health struggles, but her dad says she is cancer free. She goes to school and to therapy, and although she doesn’t speak, her family can feel her joy.
“She’ll walk up to us, and grab our cheeks and give us kisses,” Calamaco said.
Every day with Gracie is a reason to celebrate.