Sara Duncan’s battle with a rare and aggressive form of cancer hasn’t diminished her smile or her serious love of horses, said uncle Jay Thurmond.
“It’s really funny to talk to her, she’s not your typical 5-year-old kid,” said Thurmond, describing her as “mature for her age.” “You’d never know she was fighting.”
Last September, doctors diagnosed her with stage four neuroblastoma, an aggressive cancer that attacks nerve cells and is prevalent among children under 2. Stage four cancers are when cancerous cells have spread to distant organs and tissues and are harder to treat than singular tumors.
Thurmond hopes that a local fundraiser on Saturday will help cover medical expenses and other costs Sara’s family has racked up while pursuing specialized treatment options throughout the state.
Sara had a kidney removed after a tumor was found near a main artery and has been traveling to Charleston from the family’s home in Blythewood, north of Columbia, for stem cell treatment. She will soon travel to New York for experimental treatment after doctors found cancerous cells on her spine.
Photos of Sara in the middle of treatment after she lost her hair show a smiling young girl dressed in her favorite colors of pink and purple. Prior to the diagnosis, Sara was an avid horse rider, said Thurmond.
Neuroblastoma is an especially rare form of cancer with an estimated 800 cases annually in the U.S., according to St. Jude’s Children Hospital.
“We’re just kind of in limbo not knowing what to expect,” said Thurmond, who lives in Rock Hill. Sara parents are both Rock Hill natives and the family has bounced back and forth between Blythewood and Rock Hill since she was diagnosed.
“It’s been a blessing to see the people who have gotten behind us,” he said. Williams & Fudge, a student debt collection agency headquartered in Rock Hill, is donating proceeds from a company tournament to the Duncan family. Other local businesses will be chipping in components for the fundraiser.
The day-long event will feature games and activities; a barbecue lunch; a live band; a classic golf tournament; and a silent auction with items signed by celebrities, including NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon; and donated iPad tablets.
Donations are also being accepted on a GoFundMe webpage and will go toward a medical fund specifically set up for Sara’s family.
“It’s been eye opening to see compassion that’s still out there,” Thurmond said of those looking to help the family. Sara is the youngest of three, with a brother and sister both under 10.
The family has worked to maintain a sense of normalcy for the children, while keeping up with a tight schedule of medical treatments for Sara.
“Every dime I’m hoping to pull in from this thing – I think it’s going to be huge,” he said.