EARLY YEARS: New Hero Fund named for Roanoke girl will go toward pediatric cancer research

Rowan Price was only four years old when she lost her battle to rare form of cancer last year
Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 5:58 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - “She was a kid who was always happy, had these bouncy blonde curls. She loved to swim. She loved to dance. She’d be playing princesses and Barbies, and in the next minute she’d be head banging to Pantera,” says Mandy Price.

Price lost her daughter, Rowan, to acute myeloid leukemia in September 2019, nearly a year after her diagnosis.

“We had noticed some suspicious bruising on her and took her to a well visit with our oldest daughter, where her pediatrician wanted to do more blood work, because he was suspicious.”

Sure enough, that blood work showed leukemia cells, and the family’s cancer journey began.

“Rowan had two rounds of chemotherapy here in Roanoke, and then we re-located to Duke University Hospital in Durham and lived in Durham, where she received her stem cell transplant,” says Price.

Rowan was in a hospital nearly two months, and was discharged just before her fourth birthday. Hopes were high when her family was told she was cancer-free.

“So we celebrated, and went to the beach about an hour from our apartment there in Durham, and she was only cancer-free for one month,” says Price.

The cancer came back.

And after two failed clinical trials, and stays at multiple hospitals, Rowan went into respiratory failure.

Her parents decided her small body had been though enough, and opted against any life-sustaining efforts.

Through it all, Rowan stayed resilient.

“She always smiled and she always pushed through, and when it got hard, she would look up at us and say 'one step at a time, mommy. Right?”

But Rowan’s battle was painful, and so was her family’s.

“It’s not the smiley, bald-head kid that you see on the St. Jude’s commericals all the time, you know, there’s an older sister who’s patting her sister’s back after she throws up after chemotherapy. It’s a family that steps away from their job and does’t have any finances,” says Price.

She now hopes a new grant through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation will help pay for more effective treatments.

With help from friends, family and the community, there was enough money to start a Hero Fund called “RowOn 4 A Cure.”

“What many people don’t know is that childhood cancer is not well-funded. We are only alloted, four percent of the national budget for cancer research goes to pediatric cancer,” says Price.

Price hopes the fund will help create better outcomes for other families.

For her own family, Rowan’s brave battle provided an important life lesson.

“She gave us perspective. This journey gave us perspective. It put our priorities in the correct order, and we just solely focused on our family and loving each other and the time we had right then.”

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