Hannah Crudup of Joppa celebrated the conclusion of chemotherapy with a drive-by parade at Joppatowne Elementary School last Saturday.
A stream of family, friends and community members drove their cars through the school’s parking lot past Crudup, age 5, who was diagnosed with stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma in July 2022.
“This parade is to encourage her and show her everyone who is cheering her on,” Hannah’s mother, Olivia Crudup, said in a statement.
Local fire trucks joined in the parade, and firefighters handed out fire hats and fire prevention kits to the children. The kids also got to look in the trucks and take pictures.
Wearing a mask, Hannah had to keep a safe distance from the supporters. Participants were asked to clap and cheer but not to honk their horns. Olivia Crudup said the sound of a horn would especially hurt Hannah’s ears since they have been damaged from the chemotherapy.
The mother of two said Hannah’s cancer was discovered when she and her husband, Sean, took Hannah to get a vaccination.
“We were excited to get her vaccination,” Olivia Crudup said, “a blessing in disguise.” Hannah’s response to the vaccination revealed “there was something not right going on,” her mom said.
After a month of high fevers, joint pain, many doctors’ visits and tests, the Crudups took Hannah to Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital in Baltimore. Three days after she was admitted, doctors found a 14-cm tumor in the right adrenal gland that was not only cancerous, but it had spread to her bone marrow and lesions had developed on the outside of the bones.
“This is when we found the name of her cancer and named her tumor Mr. Meanie,” Olivia Crudup said.
“Mr. Meanie” put up a fight in Hannah’s body.
She’s been through one major surgery to remove the tumor, and several biopsies. She just finished seven rounds of chemo, each one with a range of side effects including hair loss, hearing loss, mucositis (mouth and gut inflammation from the chemo), skin issues and stomach issues. She’s had many procedures to place a central line and a gastronomy tube to support her nutrition.
Two of the treatments were high dose and required a bone marrow transplant to recover. Doctors performed a stem cell rescue by means of her own harvested bone marrow, which was transplanted back for her to recover, her mother said. She was hospitalized three weeks for each of these treatments.
The battle is not over yet. Hannah’s treatment journey is ongoing.
“Hannah’s still fighting,” Olivia Crudup said. “She is still enduring the side effects of that; however, she will be starting proton radiation in the beginning of April. This treatment is less harsh for her body, but it’s very travel intensive.”
When a child has cancer, their family the works through their own challenges.
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“As a pediatric cancer family, stress is just the surface,” Olivia Crudup said. “Anxiety with every change from our normal. For example, we are still on lockdown mode to protect Hannah. We must be present for procedures, hospital admissions and scary side effects. It also prevents me from working, with all the appointments, medication, and side effects, to support Hannah through. It’s been quite the nightmare.”
Sean Crudup runs a small home improvement business that allows him the flexibility to take care of Hannah’s sister, Lily, 3, while Mom is focused on Hannah.
“Nothing prepares you for the diagnosis of cancer, especially of that of a young child,” Olivia Crudup said. “This experience has been scary, overwhelming and just plain suffocating, but there is sun that shines through the clouds through the storm. Hannah is such a brave little girl.”
Olivia Crudup credits their support system of family and friends, the Child Life care team and support staff at Hopkins, and organizations like the Casey Cares Foundation, for helping the family throughout Hannah’s battle.
Casey Cares has provided the family with tickets to a virtual ballet, and a movie night package with pajamas for each of the girls, popcorn and pizza.
At the parade, Hannah wore a Magic Yarn Project princess wig given to her by the foundation.
“We appreciate organizations like Casey Cares who have been wonderful in helping Hannah to find enjoyment in the different activities even while we continue to be on lockdown,” Olivia Crudup said. “Not only do they consider everyone in the family, but they also provide activities and events for those of us who aren’t able to be out in public spaces yet. They have provided experiences pediatric cancer families that we may not have otherwise enjoyed during such a stressful time.”