When Abri Bentley awoke screaming in her sleep, her mother was, of course, concerned. Her mind was put at rest, however, when doctors confirmed that the pains in her daughter’s leg were simply growing pains. But after Abri’s discomfort showed no sign of abating, a biopsy revealed a terrible diagnosis.
Abri comes from Scottsdale, Arizona, and lives with her mom, Nikkole, her dad, Rod, and her sisters, Ashlyn and Ariya. And in early 2015, she was an ordinary seven-year-old girl.
Indeed, Abri’s favorite thing to do was dance and perform on stage. “I always danced when I was little,” she later told Phoenix news channel KPNX. Yes, the fit and active child seemed as healthy as she could be.
And like many kids her age, Abri often complained of growing pains. So when she awoke one day with an aching leg, her parents put the blame on that. However, this twinge seemed different to the others.
In fact, the shooting pain had been so sharp that it awoke Abri from her slumber. The little girl then seemed to be in agony, and soon tears began flowing down her face. Because of this, mom Nikkole rushed her to an emergency room – just to be sure she was okay.
When they got there, however, doctors reassured the concerned mom that there was nothing for her to be worried about. They further insisted that Abri’s discomfort was nothing more than growing pains, so Nikkole took her daughter back home.
But as the time passed, Abri’s pain did not diminish. And deep down, her family felt that something was wrong. So they decided to seek out a second medical opinion at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
Once Abri arrived in Phoenix, doctors decided to carry out a biopsy – and nothing could have prepared her family for what that would reveal. Because, when the results came back, the doctors diagnosed Abri with an aggressive type of bone cancer known as Ewing’s sarcoma.
While it is rare, Ewing’s sarcoma usually affects children and young people, and every year around 200 young Americans will find themselves battling the disease. In many cases, though, it is curable.
There are, in fact, a number of different treatments for the disease, depending on how it has progressed. For example, courses of chemotherapy and radiation can kill cancer cells in the body. Alternatively, in some cases surgery is required to remove the tumor or even amputate the affected area.
To treat Abri’s illness, she endured six grueling bouts of chemotherapy. As a result, she had to think about things no seven-year-old should ever have to worry about. “They said I was going to lose my hair. They said I might get my leg off,” Abri revealed.
Despite everything, though, Abri somehow managed to stay strong. Her parents, on the other hand, had a tough time watching their child suffer, and the memory of their daughter’s struggle will live with them forever.
“[We] can never forget the horror of watching our little girl become skin and bones with gray skin and black and blue eyes,” Nikkole told TODAY. “Holding her while she cried as her beautiful, long, golden hair fell out in clumps on the floor. Our ears can never forget the screams while she begged us to help every time the needle was shoved into her chest at the beginning of every treatment and with every blood draw.”
And even after Abri had completed her chemo, she found her struggles were not over. Indeed, although her tumor had gone, it had left Abri with a hole in her leg, and doctors had no option other than to remove it.
But rather than leaving Abri to rely on a prosthesis, talented surgeons crafted a tibia from a donated adult arm bone. The little girl now lovingly calls it her “arg,” blending the words “arm” and “leg.”
After the operation, Abri had to learn how to walk again – but she still wanted to achieve more. So alongside her mom, she began visiting other families dealing with childhood cancer, and it soon became clear that Abri was a natural when it came to helping other kids feel better.
Now, Abri raises awareness of childhood cancers, and she and her family want the government to give more funds to treating and researching the illnesses. “I just want people to know about childhood cancer, period,” Abri’s mom told KPNX. “It’s not going away if people aren’t willing to talk about it.”
“The adults, they get all the money,” a passionate Abri added. “And when they get all the money, they get to live. The kids don’t get the money – they don’t get to be a grown-up, so it’s not that fair.”
Abri is so impassioned about her fight against pediatric cancers that she’s even sent a call to action to President Donald Trump. “Congratulations, you beat the odds. Please help us beat the odds against childhood cancer, too,” she said in an emotional video. “Some of us die from the effects of chemo. It’s just too much for our little bodies — it’s just not okay.”
So, while no child should have to go through the same thing as Abri, she has managed to use her ordeal positively. Yes, thanks to her first-hand experience, the little girl is providing a passionate voice for other kids facing cancer.