When her parents told her she had cancer, Brooke Hines, then 8 years old, paused for a moment.
Then she said, “OK, how can I get rid of it?” her mother Jessica recalled.
Since her diagnosis about a year ago, Brooke, now 9, has gone through 15 of 17 scheduled rounds of chemotherapy to treat her Ewing sarcoma, a bone cancer. Along the way, friends and family say, she has maintained the tough attitude she showed upon first learning of her illness.
For instance, last August, after doctors removed a tumor and then her entire left fibula, Brooke was back to walking with no assistance in less than a month. Her resilience spread throughout the East Clayton community where she lives and quickly became symbolized in “Team Brooke” T-shirts emblazoned with such phrases as “I got a bone to pick with cancer.”
“There are several times when I’ve said, ‘If she didn’t have a bald head, no one would know she had cancer,’” her mom said.
During her treatment, Brooke has received more than 30 pints of blood and 10 platelet transfusions. As a way to give back, her family teamed up with the American Red Cross to hold a blood drive last week at East Clayton Elementary School.
“It’s nice that all of these people want to come out and help us,” Brooke said while playing cards with a friend.
Brooke said she knew a lot of the donors, many of whom came out because of connections to one of her five siblings. Sporting her favorite “Team Brooke” T-shirt, which says “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain,” she introduced herself to some of the donors she didn’t know.
Samantha DiGiovanni, a Hines family friend who helped organize the blood drive, called Brooke an inspiration.
“There might be times when you have a bad day, but then you think about Brooke and what she’s been through and how she’s handled it,” DiGiovanni said.
Doctors discovered her cancer last April, after she injured her leg while playing her brother. The family went to a local urgent care doctor, who told them the bone wasn’t broken.
While initially relieved that the injury wasn’t more serious, Brooke’s mother, Jessica, said doctors recommended an MRI of her daughter’s leg. Further tests in early May revealed a cancerous tumor.
She had six rounds of chemotherapy before her surgery and doctors prescribed another 11 after the operation.
After losing her hair, Brooke cried for about three minutes, her mom said, before saying, “I’m not doing this; it’s just hair.”
“She’s tougher than most adults,” Jessica said.
The Hines family moved to Clayton from California in 2012. Jessica said despite not having any extended family close by, the community has made them feel at home.
“I don’t know if it’s Southern hospitality or what, but these people are so good to us,” Jessica said. She said East Clayton Elementary has supported “Team Brooke,” even hosting “hat days,” where students can donate $1 to the Hines family and wear a hat all day.
Jessica said the blood drive was the family’s way to give back, as each pint can help people like Brooke, who sometimes has low blood-cell counts.
“We as a family thought it was time to restock the blood bank,” Jessica said.
And they did, as the Red Cross said donors gave about 92 pints during the blood drive, surpassing the family’s goal of 70.
For more information on Brooke’s story and progress, search “Team Brooke” on Facebook.
Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104