When Emma McWilliams moved next door to Cecelia Duffy last April 1, the first thing she noticed was that her new neighbour had a trampoline, too.
She had left her trampoline at her old house and didn’t know anybody in her new neighbourhood. The Duffys brought over apple muffins to welcome the family and “we started hanging out ever since,” Emma says.
The 12-year-old girls became nearly inseparable over the next six months.
But Cecelia fell ill for several weeks in October. Nobody quite knew what was wrong until she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer of the blood cells.
The news was devastating.
“I bawled my eyes out for about five days,” said Emma, who didn’t know what leukemia was at first.
Cecelia, who has just finished radiation treatment in March at BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, kept a positive outlook through the ordeal.
“It was scary at first. I think I had one good cry, but then after that I was very cheerful and confident through it.”
Losing her hair wasn’t as difficult as feeling sick all the time and being stuck in hospital, she said.
When she told her best friend about losing her hair, Emma immediately volunteered to shave her head.
“I was just kind of thinking, what can I do? Obviously I can’t cure it, but I can go visit her and try to make her spirits up and make her happy and support her,” said Emma.
She visited her friend in Vancouver many times by driving with the Duffys and also made ample use of Skype, an Internet-based chat program. When she said she would shave her head, Cecelia tried to talk her out of it.
Emma’s mind was made up.
Cecelia’s mother, Kim, came up with the idea to hold a fundraiser at the girls’ school for the hair-shaving event. Their goal was to raise $1,000 with a “Coins for Cancer” drive from April 23-27, culminating in Emma shaving her head on Friday in front of the student body of Albert McMahon.
Emma had waist-length hair, which she trimmed a foot prior to the shaving. By Friday morning, what remained of her hair was on the floor of the school gymnasium.
Afterward, children took turns congratulating both girls.
“There were a lot of kids saying hi to me, kids I barely knew, but just coming up and saying hi,” said Cecelia.
And it was an overwhelming success.
The girls raised $2,498.75, which will be donated to BC Children’s Hospital’s Balding for Dollars program.
Both are now back to their regular routine, though Cecelia takes it easy on the trampoline.
“I’m a lot healthier, I have a really good appetite. I feel like I have a lot of energy.”
And Emma doesn’t miss her hair much. She’s just happy to have her friend back.