Unexpected Birthday Surprise

One day before her 14th birthday, Scott received a surprise diagnose
During round two of chemotherapy, Gracelyn Scott receives pet therapy.
During round two of chemotherapy, Gracelyn Scott receives pet therapy.
Ashli Scott

In 2023, the year started normally in the Scott household, but soon enough, 13-year-old Gracelyn started complaining about stomach pain.

“When Gracelyn first started complaining of a stomachache, I thought it was just that, a stomachache,” Gracelyn’s mom Ashli Scott said. “After the second day of complaining, I realized she was walking slightly bent over. She wasn’t standing up straight. She said she was in too much pain to stand up when confronting her.”

Gracelyn’s parents, Ashli and Brock Scott, decided that the next day, she should get a quick check-up before going to school. After she was seen, the doctor suggested that she should have some scans done.

“Logansport’s scanner was down, so her dad decided to take her to the Kokomo emergency room,” Ashli Scott said.

She received a call at work that Gracelyn and her dad were on their way to the Kokomo.

Gracelyn Scott and her mom pose before her first Homecoming dance. (Ashli Scott)

“On the way to Kokomo, I was a mess,” Gracelyn Scott said. “I just cried the entire time, and my dad just had to keep driving because we knew something was wrong. When we got there, I could barely walk inside, and I just wanted my mom to be there with us.”

After realizing Gracelyn Scott wasn’t having any ordinary stomach pain, her parents knew something wasn’t right.

“I think this is when I started to worry,” Ashli Scott said.

Gracelyn’s parents were informed that the doctors were unable to let her leave in her condition. They didn’t know what it was or what was wrong, but Gracelyn would need to be seen by a specialist because the mass they had located was too large for them to operate on. So, Ashli, Brock, and Gracelyn Scott waited for an ambulance to be sent from Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis.

“On the way to the hospital, Gracelyn’s blood pressure was getting too low,” Ashli Scott said. “The ambulance ride was daunting. Her dad was going to meet us in Indy. It was an experience I will never forget.”

For Gracelyn Scott, the details of the ride are still hazy.

“I can’t remember much about it, but I do remember they had to turn the ambulance lights on so we could get there faster,” Gracelyn Scott said. “They were talking to me trying to keep me from passing out. When we got to Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital, we came in through the basement, and we got dropped off at the third floor where my dad already was. The people were waiting for us. That was one crazy night.”

Scott and her parents spent the next day meeting with different doctors and specialists. They were introduced to the head of the infectious disease team.

“At this point, the idea of what could be wrong felt like it would be impossible to diagnose,” Ashli Scott. “ The amount of people in and out of her hospital room made it difficult to keep track of who was who.”

After hours and hours of testing Gracelyn Scott and waiting for results, there was even more testing and waiting.

“It felt like all the oxygen in the air had been removed”

— Ashli Scott

“We were informed they would need to surgically remove the mass from her abdomen before they could clarify what was wrong,” Ashli Scott said.

Gracelyn Scott was finally scheduled for surgery, and they had to keep waiting until the time of the surgery.

“Gracelyn had fasted for three days waiting for surgery,” Ashli said. “We were informed that cancer could be a possibility, but honestly, I never imagined our daughter had cancer. Gracelyn was a healthy kid. She had never been seriously sick.”

On Jan. 13, 2023, Gracelyn Scott and her parents were informed that it was ovarian cancer.

“It felt like all the oxygen in the air had been removed,” Ashli Scott said.

It was one day before Gracelyn Scott’s 14th birthday.

“It didn’t seem real,” Gracelyn said. “When they told us, we were at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital, on the third floor, which was the oncology floor, but we didn’t know that.”

According to Loyola Medicine, most women who have ovarian cancer are in their 50s or older when diagnosed. However, Gracelyn Scott was only 13 years old when she was diagnosed.

“I felt lost, confused, scared and upset,” Gracelyn said.

The Scotts told their friends and family the night they found out.

“Everyone was very helpful,” Gracelyn said. “Some people took care of our pets when we were at the hospital. Some people did our grocery orders and brought food/dinners.”

Gracelyn Scott’s seventh-grade English teacher visited and spent a lot of time with Gracelyn Scott and her family through her journey.

“They say when your mind goes through something really traumatic, it will black out from your memory and make it hard to remember,” Natalie Baldini, an English teacher at Logansport Junior High School, said. “That is how it is when remembering when Gracelyn had cancer.”

Gracelyn Scott and her nurses smile at her bell ringing after being declared cancer-free. (Ashli Scott)

While Gracelyn Scott was out of school, Baldini would communicate with her through email.

“I remember her mom, Ashli, texting me once they knew she was going to be out of school and would need help telling her friends and teachers,” Baldini said.

Finding out someone close to you has cancer can be gut-wrenching. It can cause worry and sadness.

“Finding out news like that is something you’re never prepared for,” Baldini said. “I’m all too familiar with the terrible disease, but nothing could prepare you for your 13-year-old student telling you that she has a rare form of cancer. It was almost mind-blowing and really, really hard to process.”

Side effects of chemotherapy are common and tiring. There can be vomiting, nausea, changes in hearing and hair loss.

“You would think the time at home would have been amazing,” Gracelyn Scott said.

However, that was not the case.

“When we were home, this was when Gracelyn was the most sick,” Ashli Scott said. “She would be nauseous, throwing up, or too exhausted to move. When she would start to feel semi-normal, it would be time to start chemo again. Our home became a no-contact zone. We didn’t have people over, and we didn’t go into any stores. It was like the beginning of COVID.”

Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at Ascension St. Vincent is located in Indianapolis, Indiana. It is committed to the medical needs of children and families.

“The hospital was awesome as awful as it was being there,” Gracelyn Scott said. “It was the best possible place to be. I had the best nurses and support staff. I absolutely love all of them. They helped me and my family so much, and we have so many fun memories with them.”

“I tried my absolute best to keep Gracelyn’s spirits up when she was out of school,” Baldini said.

Baldini told Gracelyn and Ashli Scott that she would shave her head and get an undercut with Gracelyn when the time came.

“Being told I was cancer-free was like a huge weight being lifted off my chest, and it was so exciting. Nothing compares to that feeling.

— Gracelyn Scott

“We were both very nervous to shave our heads,” Baldini said.

Baldini put together care baskets from the LJHS Student Council.

“We made Gracelyn a quilt with personalized squares and encouraging pictures with words on them,” Baldini said.

Baldini asked to be Gracelyn Scott’s assigned teacher while she was out of school to help her with her school assignments.

“I visited Gracelyn once a week to help with her assignments at school and to also have dinner with her and her parents,” Baldini said.

Cancer and chemotherapy are tough on the body, so many precautions have to be taken to keep the patient safe. The Scotts had to be very careful about germs to make sure Gracelyn Scott didn’t get sick.

“Our lives were forever changed,” Ashli Scott said. “We went from planning a birthday party to learning about cancer treatment plans, the side effects of chemotherapy, and how to stay safe when she would have no white blood cells to fight off germs.”

Although having cancer can be very challenging, some people find positive aspects. Cancer patients may discover a strength they never knew they had, or maybe even make new friends during treatment.

“It has changed my life in many ways,” Gracelyn Scott said. “I see things from a different point of view now.”

May 3, 2023, was the day of all clear from cancer for Gracelyn Scott. She had the surgery to remove her port on May 19, 2023.

“Being told I was cancer-free was like a huge weight being lifted off my chest, and it was so exciting,” Gracelyn Scott said. “Nothing compares to that feeling.”

Even though she is cancer-free, Gracelyn Scott will have to go in for checkups, blood work and scans for the next five years. However, she feels well.

“I’m healthier but, obviously, stronger than ever,” Gracelyn Scott said.

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  • Y

    YoslenMar 21, 2024 at 3:18 pm

    Very beautiful story!

  • C

    Cathleen CunninghamMar 21, 2024 at 11:30 am

    Wow! What a well written article! Through the help of doctors, nurses and the school personnel Gracelyn has really flourished. Such a daunting experience for one so young! Stay strong…you are loved by so many!