Spokane girl beats rare form of leukemia after Make-A-Wish trip - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Spokane girl beats rare form of leukemia after Make-A-Wish trip to Disney World

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SPOKANE, Wash. - Thursday, January 26th is the annual Make-A-Wish Miles Drive at KHQ. This is an opportunity for the community to come together to do something incredible for the children in our region who are battling life threatening illnesses. 

KHQ asks that you consider giving whatever you can, and it doesn't have to be money. You can also donate your unused airline miles to help fund a trip for children who wish to go somewhere. Children just like Bella...


Bella Carvalho seemed to be living a happy, healthy and typical life of an 8-year-old when she suddenly started complaining about various aches and pains. 

"Simple tasks, like holding a pencil or walking suddenly made her feel sore," said Belinda Carvalho, Bella's mother. 

Multiple visits to the doctor showed no sign that anything was seriously wrong with Bella. One doctor assumed she probably had a fracture in her ankle.

"Mother's intuition basically kicked. I just decided there was something more happening. So on a Saturday morning, I woke her up and we headed to the hospital," Belinda recalls. 

Shortly after that hospital visit, Belinda got the phone call she never expected while out to lunch with her daughter. The doctor told her over the phone that Bella had cancer, they just didn't know what type. The cancer had also been found by accident because the wrong part of Bella's leg had unknowingly been scanned.  

"There is no preparing, even if I had known someone with cancer, it's not the same as hearing that your child has cancer. It isn't something you prepare yourself for."

After that phone call, Belinda forced herself to hold back the tears and the roller coaster of emotions she was feeling. She couldn't bring herself to tell Bella the gut wrenching news she had just received. 

"That was the hardest thing I ever had to suppress. We were having a really good time. I had several break downs in the car on the way home but still, privately. I just cranked up the music. We were singing and dancing as we usually do, only I'm breaking down every few seconds." Retelling those few moments in time instantly bring tears to Belinda's eyes. 

The very next day, Bella was in the hospital, getting tested and scanned as doctors tried to figure out what type of cancer she had. After nearly a month, doctors finally diagnosed Bella with a very rare form of leukemia. So rare in fact, there had only ever been 35 known childhood cases of it at the time. 

"All they knew was that they were going to have to be aggressive," Belinda said.

This was the start of a nearly two year journey as Bella fought for her life. When I asked Bella if she understood how sick she was, she said she didn't at first. Her biggest concern as an 8-year-old girl was that she was going to have to lose her hair. 

"She thought her hair defined her. She wasn't ready to present herself to the world as Bella being bald," her mom said. 

An American Girl Doll with a bald head just like Bella's gave her the courage to open up and find her confidence again and it was a trip from the Make-A-Wish foundation that gave Bella something to fight even harder for. 

"Going to Disney World was amazing!" Bella says this sentence with a huge smile as she recalls everything she got to do there.

When I asked Bella how she thinks Make-A-Wish impacted her battle with cancer, she says, "I think it allows you to get your sickness off your mind and just have fun and be you."

This is certainly true, but Bella's mother saw an even greater gift her daughter received from her wish.

"I think these wishes fulfill something greater than just a vacation. I think it's something they internalize. It represents hope. It's so much more than just a vacation. It was the one thing she was literally excited to do. She was invested. She was determined to be well enough to be able to go."

In August of 2016, Bella got to ring the bell at Sacred Heart Children's hospital, declaring that she was cancer free. 

I asked Bella if she's scared of anything today. "Not really. I feel like the worst thing that could have happened to me, in my mind, was to have cancer," she says. "But it already happened and I made it through. I know I can do it."

There are currently more than 500 children in our region waiting to have their wishes granted from our local chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. 

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