Eight-year-old Bianca of Monroe County, West Virginia loves to dance. Her mother, Cortney White, says Bianca is especially fond of ballet, jazz and hip-hop. When Bianca was diagnosed with Leukemia last October, Cortney says the news came as a sudden and complete shock. “I never realized the importance and significance of the small things that I took for granted until they were stripped from our life in one afternoon.” Even now, you might not realize the active gymnast and artist is in a battle against cancer. Cortney says of her daughter, “She has fought this horrible disease with beauty and grace. I feel so fortunate and blessed to spend every day with the happiest and the most positive person I know. She is always smiling and laughing. She brightens my days.”
Bianca and her family started on this medical journey when Bianca got her diagnosis at CAMC Women & Children’s Hospital in Charleston, West Virginia. Cortney says, “Immediately, I knew that I had to find her the best possible treatment and facility. I started researching and Nationwide Children’s Hospital was ranked #4 in the nation for children’s cancer hospitals.” Cortney says they felt fortunate to have such a world-renowned hospital in a neighboring state. She arranged for Bianca to be transferred the very next day after she was diagnosed.
Cortney says when they arrived in Columbus, she immediately felt better. “I knew this was where we needed to be.” It was from a hospital social worker that Cortney found out about the Ronald McDonald House. She says she wasn’t familiar with RMHC, but when she learned about the House across the street from the hospital, she was relieved. “Hearing that Bianca and I would have a place to call home during treatment gave me hope,” she exclaimed. “I had no idea such facilities existed. It still seems unreal to me that the generosity of volunteers and donors have made it possible for my family to stay close next door to the hospital, while receiving treatment.”
Though Bianca’s grandmother, her father, and brother have all stayed at the House at different times with Bianca since they arrived last fall, the coronavirus forced the House to make limitations on the number of guests who could stay beginning in March. Cortney admits it’s been hard leaving Bianca’s six-year-old brother Brandon back on the family’s farm for weeks on end. She knows it’s also been a challenge for Bianca to be away from her home, family, and friends for great lengths of time. But, she adds, “The Ronald McDonald House has given us the opportunity to establish a home away from home. We Facetime, text, and Bianca loves SnapChat to communicate with her family and close friends daily.” Cortney appreciates the measures the House has taken to keep everyone safe during these unprecedented times. “Everyone is wearing a mask and performing social distancing to keep everyone safe during this pandemic. The Ronald McDonald House is following the same protocol as Nationwide Children’s Hospital, which makes me feel like I’m bringing my daughter into a safe environment.”
Cortney believes staying at the House has had an impact on Bianca’s treatment too. “Staying here, at the Ronald McDonald House, has helped my daughter receive the best of care. She goes to the hospital Monday thru Friday for infusion chemotherapy.” “Without the House,” Cortney says, “…our journey, I’m sure, would have been a lot different. I am forever grateful and thankful that we are here, and my daughter is receiving the best care possible. It is truly been a blessing.”
Though she and her daughter are here on a health journey that’s been tough, Cortney points out that her family is grateful for having enjoyed some special, pleasant memories while staying at the House. “During Christmas, Bianca enjoyed seeing the Grinch and Cindy Lou Who!” Cortney continues, “We love seeing the different decorations on display during the holidays… The atmosphere is one of joy and kindness here… it’s a beautiful thing to witness.”
What’s next? Cortney answers, “Our dream is for Bianca to be completely healed.” Cortney explains, “She looks forward to her last day of chemo when she can ring the bell and celebrate her victory. We look forward to the day that she can go back to living the life she once did. I want to see her in school with her classmates, take her to dance class and gymnastics. I want her to sleep in her bed at night, exchange Valentines with her friends, participate in the Christmas play at church, and enjoy her animals on the farm.”