HAMILTON, Ohio — Eight-year-old Naomi Short, lifelong lover of unicorns, lip gloss and her American Girl doll named Riley, collapsed at school Sept. 26.
When she woke up, she couldn’t remember her name.
Short’s parents had gotten used to seeing their daughter struggle with migraines, some of them so severe they made her sick, during the summer. One doctor told the family it was a symptom of dehydration. Another said they were the same abdominal migraines that had occasionally troubled her mother.
A trip to Children’s Hospital after Short’s collapse revealed their source: Pineoblastoma, a series of tumors in her brain and spinal cord.
“I’ve been scared,” she said Monday night. “I remember when I first found out that I was so scared I was going to die. A lot of people die from cancer.”
She needed four brain surgeries in the month following her diagnosis, plus a round of radiation treatments scheduled to finish Dec. 26. According to her mother, doctors estimate the survival rate for her type of brain cancer around 30%.
That doesn’t mean she or her parents will give up.
“I’m doing awesome and radiation isn’t,” Short said. “When I first started it, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. And guess what my nurse said? I do better than most adults.”
The Hamilton small business community is throwing its support behind the Short family. More than 12 businesses hope to ease the growing burden of their medical expenses — tens of thousands and counting — by chipping in for the holidays.
“Why get involved?” said Sherry Hoskins, a cancer survivor and owner of Petal & Wicks custom candle shop. “Why not? It’s the season of giving, and what better way than to support and help a local community person?”
Short designed a special chocolate cake-scented candle for Petal & Wicks. Half of each $20 sale will be donated toward her family, according to Hopkins.
Other businesses set up donation boxes, and a family member created a GoFundMe campaign with a $50,000 goal.
“It makes me want to cry,” Naomi’s mother, Melissa Short, said. “It really does. It’s so amazing. We’re just a normal family. We’re not anyone special.”
However much the Shorts raise by the end of 2019, they’ll have a long journey ahead in the new year. Naomi said she expects to spend six months undergoing chemotherapy. Her parents haven’t been able to return to work since her diagnosis and aren’t sure what 2020 will bring.
“I know I’ll be bald from chemo,” Naomi said. “But it’ll grow back, and God will bless me with a beautiful head of hair. Plus, Mom said I can dye it with permanent hair.”
Like her mother, she said she was grateful for the support of her community and people who love her.
“I’m going through a lot,” she said. “Everyone is stepping in and helping me get through it. I love everyone for doing that. I’m kicking cancer’s butt with the help of everyone.”