She’s just a second grader who got caught by cancer but has now seen the light of recovery. 

After nearly a year battling cancer in her leg, Gabby Aulds, who will turn 8 at the end of the month, returned to West Elementary last Wednesday, in remission and showing the biggest smile among her peers. 

Amid dozens of hugs, hundreds of smiles and so many, “Glad you are back” greetings, Gabby presented an extra credit project to her class about France, a place that is her Make A Wish request. 

Many of the students who also created an extra-credit project said Gabby’s was “the bomb.” Gabby worked on her project during her treatment and long recovery from osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.

“I’m nervous,” Gabby said, though she seemed confident during her presentation which she gave sitting in a wheelchair with her leg elevated.

Classmate Alexa Bullard could not stop grinning when Gabby gave her presentation, though she was three rows from center stage.

“Everyone was sad about Gabby’s sickness,” Alexa said. “Now that she is back, I think I have a friend for our whole life.”

Melissa Aulds said that bone scans done after Gabby’s school visit showed she is “clear of cancer.”

“Well, we just ended Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. For many of us, every month is a reason to support childhood cancer,” Melissa said.

Gabby wore a red beret with bright brown hair ready to grow back underneath it, her brown eyes showing off her strength and simple love to be back in her classroom. 

In Gabby’s nearly year-long absence, “Bella,” a stuffed monkey, occupied her school seat every day.

It’s the same seat Gabby expects to fill after Fall Break ends this week. 

Entering the hospital world

Last year around Thanksgiving, Gabby fell twice at school. An MRI showed a tumor in her left leg. Doctors said Gabby would be fortunate to keep her leg. Melissa said one in five U.S. children with cancer won’t survive. 

“I want to raise awareness and support these families,” she said. “Yes, the cameras were around, but this still happens.”

Gabby and her family spent a lot of time at the hospital at Vanderbilt.

“Some (patients) were able to move around and they just parked at Gabby’s door on the wing,” Melissa said. “At times, this was Gabby’s only social interaction.”

Chemotherapy lasted from December to March. 

West Principal Chris Plummer was watching when Gabby appeared for the day. 

“The takeaway is a child has pediatric cancer and no one, most assuredly a second grader, should not go through this,” he said. “Our school, our community has supported Gabby. They never lost hope. It wasn’t if Gabby would come back, it was when.”

While Gabby’s leg is healing, she knows the soccer and gymnastics of her past are out. 

“But she’s all about art and music, and singing! And, piano,” Melissa said.

And, her birthday is the end of this month. 

“She wants a doggie,” Ryan Aulds said. 

The rescue pup just might be a therapy dog on paper, but would be a great companion and reward for a little girl who fought a disease and won.

“We always told her she had a sickness in her leg,” Melissa said. “She thought somehow she did this to herself. We had long conversations about why ‘God’ let this happen. They were tough conversations. Mostly at bedtime and she has grown up with faith.”

Gabby knows she’s loved. She wants to be a veterinarian. She throws lots of love to friends at the children’s ward at Vanderbilt. 

When she left the hospital in August the nurses sang to her.

“It’s not the scary, dark days anymore,” said Melissa, who said she slept in the bed with Gabby every night.

And Gabby said there is something else on her birthday wish list, maybe the only thing better than a puppy.

“My biggest birthday wish is for no other kid to have cancer and for all the doctors and nurses to have more stuff to cure it,” Gabby said.

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