Chloe Cress, 14, just received the best holiday gift ever. After being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in 2018 and staying in the hospital for 18 months, she can finally come home for Christmas because she’s in remission!
What started as a limp in June 2018 turned out to be something more serious for the teen. At the time, Chloe’s father, Shawn Cress, thought that his then 12-year-old daughter only required physical therapy.
But a fever followed, which prompted lab tests that “didn’t look good,” doctors said. By then, Chloe was suffering from back pain.
The Cress family, based in Kingsport, Tennessee, was referred to Niswonger Children’s Hospital in Johnson City, which was about 34 miles away. There, Chloe underwent a CT scan, and doctors found a large tumor near her heart that had spread down to her esophagus and into some of her vertebrae, causing her back to hurt.
Chloe was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer – alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, which is cancer in the skeletal muscles, according to the American Cancer Society. Less than 12 hours after they received the devastating news, Chloe was flown to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, and the family hasn’t come home to Tennessee ever since.
Chloe’s family knew that it was bad, but they didn’t expect it to be the kind of bad that would turn their life upside down.
“It just scares the life out of you,” Shawn said. “You just think, ‘I’m gonna lose my kid.’ And it’s really helpless, because there’s nothing you can do.”
Chloe mainly felt concerned for her family when they learned that she had stage 4 cancer.
“I was worried about something happening to the whole family because of me,” she told CNN. “I mean like money problems, and all sorts of things like that. Unable to have the same house that I grew up in, having my dogs, having everything I love that isn’t allowed to be at St. Jude.”
Days spent in school were replaced with multiple doctor’s appointments. The family sometimes even spends up to 14 hours a day in the hospital. Chloe especially missed her two dogs, Buu and Rollie, who she gets to see every month. Spending time with her pets is really uplifting for her.
“They’re my emotional link,” she said.
On Tuesday, doctors came bearing great news – the cancer was in remission. Aside from returning for follow-up appointments every three months, this means that they can finally head home on December 21 just in time for Christmas!
Last Christmas, the family was able to go home for a few days, but they had to drive back to the hospital on Christmas day for appointments on December 26, 2018.
“This one is more exciting because it’s for good,” Shawn said.
After spending 18 months in St. Jude, going home to Tennessee almost feels “surreal.” There were days when it was hard to imagine that this day would come, but here they are now – perfectly confident in the knowledge that Chloe has beat stage 4 cancer!
Chloe feels happy and relieved about finally going home. She won’t be able to return to school right away, and will probably be bedridden for the rest of the school year. But those disadvantages don’t matter – what’s more important is that she’ll get to spend quality time with her family and her dogs at home.
Congratulations on beating cancer, Chloe!