Mesa school fundraiser for leukemia-stricken 6-year-old - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Mesa school fundraiser for leukemia-stricken 6-year-old

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Posted: Thursday, July 19, 2012 7:41 am | Updated: 5:03 pm, Fri Jul 20, 2012.

It’s not hard for the typical 6-year-old to find something to complain about. A broken toy. Staying up late. No ice cream before dinner.

But Brianne Rust isn’t the typical 6-year-old. Hair loss. Nausea. Inabilty to walk.

The list goes on, and yet Brianne — a student at Mesa’s Noah Webster School, diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in April — hardly complains at all. She’s not all that scared, either.

“She is an inspiration to us all as she does very little complaining,” said Stephanie Hopkins, Brianne’s grandmother. “Her parents and the hospital staff have done a marvelous job of explaining each step so as not to frighten her.”

That courage is rubbing off on those around her, Hopkins said. As Brianne’s mother, Tiffany, has quit her job in the medical field to care for her daughter full-time. Costs continue to climb — the family said it expects Brianne to undergo chemotherapy for more than two full years, at an estimated cost of $32,000 — leading Tiffany’s sister, Hillary Cappel, to start a group called “Brianne’s Brigade” to help find financial support for her niece.

In addition to providing information on Brianne’s treatment and accepting donations and support on its website — www.briannesbrigade.com — the group is hosting a fundraising event Saturday (July 21) from 3 to 7 p.m. at Brianne’s school, located at 7301 E. Baseline Road in Mesa.

The event will include a boutique, raffles, toy drive and silent auction.

“We are reaching out to the community, urging them to help in the family’s fight for Brianne.” Cappel said. “It is our hope that people can remember how lucky they are to have a healthy child and to please do what they can to support those who need help.”

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia — also known as A.L.L. and acute lymphocytic leukemia, according to the Mayo Clinic — is a cancer that attacks the blood and bone marrow of its victims. The word “acute” comes from how rapidly the disease progresses and how it affects developing blood cells, rather than mature ones.

The potentially deadly cancer, according to Mayo, is the most common amongst children in the United States, affecting 4,000 people a year two-thrids of which are children. The Mayo Clinic also states that A.L.L. “occurs when a bone marrow cell develops errors in its DNA. The errors tell the cell to continue growing and dividing, when a healthy cell would normally die. When this happens, blood cell production goes awry.”

Symptoms such as pale skin, fever, bleeding from the gums, and frequent nosebleeds often occur.

In Brianne’s case, “she was robbed of her energy,” her grandmother said. After suffering a fever and sore throat for the better part of three weeks, Brianne’s symptoms looked like a “typical childhood virus,” Hopkins added. But eventual blood work results led to the answer.

“Tiffany received a call from the doctor telling her to take Brianne to Cardon Children’s Hospital ER right away,” she said. “(Brianne’s father) Charlie came home from work immediately and they went to the hospital not knowing what was happening. (After) many more tests ... by 4 PM they were told she had acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

“Their world stood still.”

A straight-”A” student, Hopkins said Brianne was like an Energizer bunny — loving to swim, tumble, hike, read and ride bikes — and hopes to one day work in the medical field, like her mother.

Now, knee deep in a 30-month battle for her life that includes surgeries, numerous blood transfusions, steroids and more, the family is asking the community to open its collective heart at this weekend’s event.

In addition to the boutique setting and other features, silent auction items donated by various businesses and individuals include hot air balloon rides, autographed sports memorabilia from the Arizona Diamondbacks, a ski vacation at Northern Arizona’s Sunrise Ski Resort, two nights at the Arizona Grand Resort near Ahwatukee, indoor sky diving, the North Pole Experience in Flagstaff, and more. Raffle prizes include accessories like a Coach purse, as well as a weekend stay at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego.

To follow Brianne’s journey, visit www.caringbridge.org/visit/briannerust, or go to www.briannesbrigade.com for information on upcoming events or more ways to help.

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