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Forsyth County child's cancer diagnosis nabbed just in time

Family seeks financial assistance

Olivia Graham, 5, was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a cancer that targets young children. (click for larger version)

(click for larger version)
July 22, 2013
FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — A mother's instinct is never wrong. Maggie Graham can attest to that.

Her 5-year-old daughter, Olivia, complained of hip pain that was so strong she woke up screaming in the middle of the night. The hip pain plus a slight fever and a strange bruise on the child's leg led Graham to schedule an appointment with Olivia's pediatrician.

Their regular doctor wasn't available and the one they saw assured them it was simply growing pains.

"I don't remember growing pains being so powerful they woke me up screaming," Graham said.

Knowing she had a five-year check-up scheduled a few days later, Graham decided to discuss it with their doctor. The pediatrician did a complete blood count test, a CBC, and Graham and her daughter left. They hadn't even made it out of the parking lot when they were called back up.

"Olivia's blood work showed nothing," Graham said. "No platelets, no white or red blood cells."

Graham said if her daughter had fallen and hit her head that day, she wouldn't have survived.

"She would have bled out," Graham said.

Graham rushed Olivia to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite, where an oncologist was waiting.

"I think I was in shock then, but I knew it was bad," she said.

Less than 24 hours later, Olivia was diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a cancer that primarily affects children between the ages of 2 and 5.

"The success rate is 85 percent," Graham said, "but she will need chemotherapy for about three years."

Graham said Olivia has a strong spirit and her courage is carrying their family through the hard times.

"I've never seen anything like it," she said. "Her strength is amazing."

Olivia's cancer hasn't just impacted the family emotionally.

"I've had to quit working to be with her and take her to her chemo treatments several times a week," Graham said. "Of course there is no place I'd rather be, but the financial burden has been hard."

The Grahams have a Tahoe, so gas is expensive. Graham is also 5 feet 2 inches tall, so manipulating her daughter in and out of the SUV isn't easy on mother or child.

"Recently, the air conditioner went out," Graham said. "If it's not one thing, it's another, but I hate to see her suffer during that drive."

Graham's church, First Baptist Church of Dawsonville, 900 Ga. 9 in Dawsonville, has established a fundraiser for the family.

"We are so grateful to them for this," Graham said.

The fundraiser was held July 19 and July 20, but donations will continue to be accepted in Olivia's name at the church.

"We are hoping to help the family with gas and other expenses now that Maggie isn't working," church secretary Wanda Davis said. "Anything anyone can do to help is appreciated."

For more information on Olivia and how to help, visit or call First Baptist Church of Dawsonville at 706-265-2612.

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Tags: Community & Outreach

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    A BIg Thanks to Forsyth Herald!
    July 24, 2013 | 05:11 PM

    Thank you guys so much for helping to tell her story. I'm so thankful.

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