Photography by Angie Blackburn Photography
From the instant Chanelle was brought into this world her family knew she was sent to them for a reason. This vibrant, happy, and extremely healthy child brought joy to everyone she came into contact with. As life moved forward, Chanelle was blessed with a baby sister. At that time no one could have imagined the important role her younger sibling would play in saving her life just a few years down the road.
When Chanelle was eight, she began complaining that her left leg hurt. She was playing with her baby sister on the floor when the little one tried crawling over her legs and lost her balance. She fell onto Chenelle’s left leg; her small elbow impacted her just above her knee with all her weight.
The pain was intense and Chanelle screamed. A huge lump was present on her leg; the swelling covered a large area the size of her mother’s hand. Her mother scheduled a doctor’s appointment with their pediatrician; they assumed they would go to the examination and the diagnosis would be a sprain or a pulled muscle and they were prepared to be told that a little rest and Chanelle would be as good as new.
The doctor did an examination and ordered an X-Ray; Nothing could have prepared Chanelle or her mother for what the test would reveal later that same evening. They were taken back into the doctor’s office and were told that Chanelle had a tumor in the bone and it was cancer. Chanelle was diagnosed with a bone cancer known as Osteosercoma ;a rare type of bone cancer that affected her femur and had moved into her muscle. They had to move quickly and begin treatment right away. The team of doctors designed a plan that would aggressively fight the affected area. She was immediately sent to Primary Children’s Hospital where she endured multiple scans and a portacath was placed in her chest to administer chemotherapy; a treatment that would continue for several weeks. She had to be scared, but this little girl showed no fear; the bravery she expelled radiated to everyone she came in contact with. Even through the fevers, nauseous, sick feeling, pain, tears and the complications she experienced, Chanelle remained focused and kept her sights on the goal of being well again. Her contagious smile was what everyone saw.
Chanelle was going to lose her long beautiful hair due to the treatment of the Chemo. Her mother stood by her little girls side and they both had their hair cut short when the time came. They did it in stages, so it wouldn’t be such a shock all at once. Eventually she lost all of her hair; even that didn’t break this amazing young girl; she embraced being without hair and participated in a photo session that proved just how beautiful this child is, both inside and out.
After the completion of 8 rounds of chemotherapy, surgery was scheduled. A procedure known as “rotationplasty” would be performed on June 23. What this means in a little bit more understandable form, Chanelle’s leg would be amputated and the healthy part; the bottom part of her leg from the knee down would be attached just below her hip providing a makeshift femur that eventually a prosthetic leg would be attached to. Thus giving her a joint where her prosthetic leg would be attached offering her normal use of her leg.
The surgeon appeared announcing it was time; hugs and kisses were shared amongst Chanelle and her family. Chanelle’s mother embraced her little girl and held her tightly against her chest; she whispered, “Its okay to be scared and its okay to cry.” They held each other for a brief moment; they both said “I love you.” They finally parted and Chanelle turned to walk away and said, “See you after my nap” a single tear escaped her eye and rolled down one side of her cheek as she bravely walked away with the doctor. The family waited until she got out of sight and they broke down and cried like babies; they knew that was the last time they would see that beautiful little girl walk on her two own natural legs.
After twelve long hours, they were finally notified that Chanelle was in recovery; the doctor explained what he had done and stated that everything went very well. He indicated she would be on a lot of pain medications, so she wasn’t expected to be fully coherent for about 3 days.
Within about forty five minutes Chanelle was wide awake in recovery. She called for her mother in her sweet chipper little voice as her mother was waiting to see her. The fact that she was awake and talking stunned her mother; she ran over to her daughter in amazement. she was so cute and her adorable attitude was shinning through as she was coming out of the anesthesia.
Chanelle, her mother and her grandmother decided they would check out her leg together. As Chanelle’s mother nervously looked at her daughter , waiting for a reaction; Chanelle smiled, “look at my little nemo leg” she said. Her positive outlook on what they saw gave a renewed position to her family that this was going to be okay.
Her enthusiasm and aspiration to get past this is what keeps her loved ones going.
Chanelle is back in chemotherapy and will have much treatment over the next few months. Eventually she will receive her prosthetic leg and with the help of physical therapy she will master the art of using her new leg.
Her contagious smile, hopeful attitude and sweet spirit has captured the hearts of thousands of people. This courageous and precious little angel has brought so many people together, some are family, others are friends and many are strangers that never even had the pleasure of meeting her. They stand behind her in her battle; admiring her courage and determination to beat this terrible disease known as cancer. They send their love, support and prayers daily that she will win “Chanelle’s Fight.”
Someone asked Chanelle, “What makes you so strong?” Her reply was, “I don’t want to go anywhere; I love my family and they all love me, they stand behind me in this fight with everything that they have and their support and strength is what will get me through.”
About the Photographer
Angie Blackburn is a Senior and Family photographer in rural Central Utah. Aside from photography, Angie loves spending time with her husband and 3 children, running and biking, and decorating her home with thrift store finds she refurbishes and repurposes.