Chief Cushie ~MaryO~ Posted May 5, 2007 Chief Cushie Report Share Posted May 5, 2007 http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/swift/314319_mary04.html SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER Prom night gives these seriously ill teens a huge lift Last updated May 3, 2007 11:57 p.m. PT By MARY SWIFT P-I COLUMNIST She's battled leukemia three times, endured repeated rounds of chemotherapy, and had radiation and a stem cell transplant. And she's only 15. But she's going to the prom. On Saturday night, life is going to feel a little more normal for Renton's Katie West. Kids like Katie, whose lives are unpredictable and interrupted by illness, often feel socially isolated. Enter the Fourth Annual Teen Prom for seriously ill children sponsored by the Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation. More than 100 teens from around the region, including Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane and Portland, are expected to be at the ballroom of the Embassy Suites Hotel in Tukwila. "It was so much fun last year," says West. "I can't even tell you how much fun it was. They give you corsages. They have a deejay. They have a photographer to take your picture. "Even people in wheelchairs dance. I danced with a boy in a wheelchair." The Ruby Room, a Seattle-area non-profit that provides gowns for low-income teens, provided a dress, shoes and accessories. "With our income, I knew I wouldn't be able to buy a dress last year," she says. "I was so happy when I found out about the Ruby Room." But medications and health problems led to serious weight gain for Katie and she found slim pickings in her size. Disappointed but resourceful, she settled for a black dress "that looked like a slip. But then I went to St. Vincent's (de Paul) and found another black dress with sparkles all over," she says. This year, down 20 pounds, she found "the perfect dress" at the Ruby Room. "It's, like, maroon with incandescent purple," she says. "I love it." Her excitement is unmistakable. But then, the Starlight prom has a way of doing that, says Erin Garrett, program services director at the foundation. She recalled a 16-year-old from Tacoma, who was being treated for leukemia, at last year's prom. "He was in the hospital on a morphine drip," Garrett says. "Up until the day of the prom, we didn't think he'd be able to go. He had a tux at the end of his bed all week. About halfway through the prom, someone's tapping me on the back. It was that boy. ... He's like, 'I didn't know anybody. Now I've met so many kids here.' " Like Katie, he plans to be back this year. "These are milestones that are important for these kids," Garrett says. "And because we have some of the siblings there, you see the barriers (between those who are ill and those who are not) breaking down. Everybody is having fun with everybody else." Katie knows firsthand how important those moments are. She was 2 1/2 when she was first diagnosed. Then, just a few days short of her 8th birthday, her leukemia came back; she was only 11 when she had another recurrence. Back then, she was a student at Auburn's Lake View Elementary. Now living in Renton with her mother and older brother, she says: "What I miss most is the interaction you get in school, your friends, ordinary things like that. I only have three friends. If I were in school, I think I'd have more." She's privately tutored, plans to get her GED and dreams of someday going to college. Hospitalized for more than a month last summer, she's been diagnosed with Cushing's syndrome, a condition that causes weight gain, fatigue, depression and mood swings, among other symptoms. Being a teen with health issues is one thing, adding body image issues is another. "It's hard to be heavy. I'm 15. I know no boy looks at me the same way he looks at my best friend. But I know someday I'll find a boy who likes me," she says. In the meantime, there is the magic of the prom. "Without this, I wouldn't be able to go (to a prom)," she says. "I don't have words to explain how good it makes me feel. If I don't have a date, even if I don't dance with anybody, I would still feel good." Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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