By TOMI L. WILEYSpecial to The Wilson Post
MT. JULIET -- At first glance, Savannah Hope Swandal looks like any other 3rd grader at Mt. Juliet Elementary.
She is an outgoing, beautiful, 9-year-old little girl with an infectious laugh and a smile that will melt your heart. She enjoys being outdoors, playing with her family and friends, dancing, singing, riding her bike, listening to music and going to church.
What makes Savannah unlike her fellow students and classmates at MJE is the fact that she’s fighting cancer for the third time in only three years. She was initially diagnosed in February 2006 at the tender age of 5 with Stage IV metastatic alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma. This type of childhood cancer is very rare and aggressive with a poor medical prognosis. Savannah had to undergo 10 months of intense chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation and several surgical procedures at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in an effort to get rid of the cancer.
In January 2007, she and her family were thrilled when she reached remission. She enjoyed almost 1-½ years of being cancer-free until she relapsed in April 2008. Surgery to remove an abdominal tumor was performed and different chemotherapy drugs were administered for 10 months to try to get rid of the cancer again. Luckily, she was told she had no evidence of disease this past February.
Unfortunately, her cancer returned after only eight weeks off treatment. On April 6, she began a new chemo regimen that is given for five consecutive days every three weeks. Savannah is unable to go to school during each week of chemo and is homebound when her blood counts are so low that it is dangerous for her to be out in public.
Savannah’s immediate family consists of her mother and step-father, Robin and Bruce Landes, step-sister, Ashley Landes, father and step-mother, John and Taunya Swandal, step-brother, Joey Fishbeck and half-sister, Emma Swandal. They feel blessed for each moment they’re given and request prayers of the community as Savannah’s fight is far from over.
A booth is being provided by Arby’s in Hermitage, located at 3400 Lebanon Road near Stones River bridge, Kohl’s and Target, on Thursday, April 23, from 5 until 8 p.m. “Arby’s Savannah Spirit Night” is a kickoff to the YMCA Country Music Kids’ Marathon and a time when you can eat with your family and support Savannah along with her Country Music Kids Marathon MJE Superstars. The event is endorsed by the Mt. Juliet Elementary PTO and a percentage of all food sales will go to the Savannah Hope Swandal Benefit Fund.
The Savannah Hope Swandal Benefit Account is set up at SunTrust Bank to assist the family with medical bills and expenses. Donations are greatly appreciated and can be made at any branch. You can follow Savannah’s progress and leave messages of support at www.caringbridge.org/visit/savannahswandal.
Editor’s Note: Tomi L. Wiley is editor of The Chronicle of Mt. Juliet.