Gabrielle Lett is a champion for other sick children after surviving a rare and aggressive form of cancer.
By Casandra Andrews
Midway through second grade, Gabrielle Lett began having frequent stomachaches. That spring, when she couldn’t keep food down for a few days, a pediatrician told her parents to take her to USA Health Children’s & Women’s Hospital.
Charita and Tarelle Lett rushed their eight-year-old daughter to the emergency department on April 12, 2018. An ultrasound revealed three large masses in her stomach.
Gabrielle, known by friends and family as Gabby, was admitted to the hospital that day. What happened next was a blur for the little girl and etched in her parent’s memories. After more tests and a biopsy, Gabby was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma/leukemia, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that attacks B cells and grows rapidly. Only about 1,200 people a year are diagnosed with the disease in the United States.
The cancer was spreading so quickly that Gabby immediately had to begin spinal chemotherapy, which required sedation. For three long months, a ventilator breathed for her as she continued infusion treatments up to three times a day.
At first, her parents weren’t sure their child ever would leave the pediatric intensive care unit. They were at the hospital for the better part of six months, rarely leaving her side. Charita Lett said they relied on a support network of family and friends to help look after their three older children during the time Gabby battled for her life.
“Everyone at the hospital was awesome,” said Tarelle Lett, Gabby’s father. “What we were going through was really tough.”
Gabby responded to the chemotherapy better than anyone could have hoped. Her tumors shrank and she began to thrive again.
With her family and hospital staff members cheering her on, she rang a bell on Nov. 12, 2018, just seven months after she was first hospitalized for cancer. Today, nearly three years after successfully battling the disease, she’s an energetic 11-year-old looking forward to sixth grade.
Gabby was selected to represent USA Health Children’s & Women’s Hospital as the Children’s Miracle Network Champion for 2021. As an ambassador, her photo was featured in May on donation cards posted at local Costco stores. Through the end of July, her smiling image will be featured at registers at Walmart and Sam’s Club locations across south Alabama that support specialized care for sick and injured children.
Gabby and her parents hope her story will serve to inspire others who may find themselves in similar circumstances.
“She has a beautiful spirit and is always thinking of others,” said Charita Lett of her youngest daughter. “To know she was chosen for the Children’s Miracle Network is an honor for us. She has a powerful testimony to share.”