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April 25, 2012

Pulling Together

Schools rally around girl battling brain cancer

PINE KNOT —  Ciearra Miller’s 9th birthday was a memorable one — for all the wrong reasons.

    The little girl woke up last August 16 — two days before she would start 4th grade at Pine Knot Intermediate School — with the right side of her face paralyzed.

    Doctors initially treated Ciearra with steroids for Bell’s Palsy but her condition did not improve.

    In October an MRI uncovered a tumor in Ciearra’s brain, though doctors first thought it was benign.

    Ciearra’s mother, Angela Dick, took her to neurologists in Louis-ville before finding Dr. Thomas Pittman at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. It was now nearly March, and Ciearra’s tumor had doubled in size. Dr. Pittman — believing the little girl had cancer — ordered a biopsy.

    On March 13, their fears were confirmed. Ciearra had an inoperable malignancy in her thalamus, the center of her brain. Less than five percent of brain tumors affect that area. To make matters worse, Ciearra awoke from anesthesia to find her left side paralyzed.

    Ciearra stayed at Kentucky Children’s Hospital for four days before she was sent to Lexington’s Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital.

    “She just withdrew,” Angela said, “so we decided to bring her home and find a rehab center closer.”

    The family settled on a facility in Williamsburg where Ciearra showed marked progress. After just one session, she regained the use of her leg and her left hand is improving “slowly day by day.”

    Ciearra needs all the strength she can muster as she enters her fifth week of chemotherapy and radiation at UK’s Markey Cancer Center. She and her mother have been staying at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge through the week and returning home on weekends.

    “She’s done really good,” Angela said. “She’s just had a few complaints of nausea and headaches. After all that chemo, I think that’s amazing.”

    Angela added that Ciearra wants to get better so she can play soccer. She also misses school. Rebecca Blakley, guidance counselor at Pine Knot Intermediate, noted that Ciearra likes to stop by the school once a week since she’s been on homebound.

    Well liked by her classmates, Ciearra’s old and new schools have rallied to help the family with medical expenses. Pine Knot Primary is raffling a UK blanket while Pine Knot Intermediate is selling t-shirts (orders are due May 4), friendship pins and gray ribbons (symbolizing brain cancer with an added purple stone for Ciearra’s favorite color). The schools are also saving pop tabs to benefit Hope Lodge and Ronald McDonald House.

    PKI will hold a dance this Saturday, April 28 at 6 p.m. One of its organizers, Candice Greene, is working through Walker’s Chapel to hold a bake sale/auction.

    Ciearra is the daughter of Angela and Silas Dick Jr. She has two brothers, Jonathan Taylor, 12, and Ethan Dick, 5.

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Little brother Kyler, 2, helps 4-year-old Kyndal Patrick model the T-shirts now being sold to give back for the support she received during her recent hospitalization.

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