Annalise Pelton is a 3-year-old bundle of sunshine, from her silly grin to her freely given hugs, from her bright eyes to her few remaining strands of silvery-blond hair. “If she wasn’t bald, you wouldn’t even know she was sick,” her sister Rachael says.
Annalise Pelton is a 3-year-old bundle of sunshine, from her silly grin to her freely given hugs, from her bright eyes to her few remaining strands of silvery-blond hair.
She likes the color purple, cuddles with a stuffed rabbit named “Bunny” and loves to play with her brother, Matthew, 8, and sister, Rachael, 13.
She’s smart as a whip and loves to count out loud, taking candy canes off the Christmas tree and “selling” them to family members at an imaginary store in her living room. She twirls with the grace of a much older ballerina, though she has never taken lessons and no one is quite sure where she learned the steps.
In many ways, “Anna” is a normal, rambunctious toddler.
“If she wasn’t bald, you wouldn’t even know she was sick,” Rachael said.
Early last summer, Anna couldn’t shake what seemed like a cold or virus — she was “achy,” uncharacteristically lethargic and had a low-grade fever, said her parents, Sue and John Pelton.
After a series of doctor visits, they took Anna to the pediatric emergency room at Strong Memorial Hospital, where they received her diagnosis — neuroblastoma, a cancer of the sympathetic nerve system that occurs most frequently in children younger than 5. Further tests identified neuroblastoma cells in Anna’s spine, skull and femur.
Just a week after her diagnosis, Anna began a seven-round course of chemotherapy at Strong. During each three- to five-day treatment, Anna stays at the hospital and receives the chemo drugs through a broviac catheter, a rubber vessel surgically placed just under the skin in her chest.
The “tubies,” as Anna calls the catheter, allow the powerful cancer-fighting drugs to go right into her largest veins, eliminating the need for numerous needle-sticks in her fragile hand and arm veins.
At home, Anna’s tubies have to be flushed every day with a blood thinning solution to keep clots from forming. Anna likes to help her mother with the task and is very careful to keep the catheter clean, Sue Pelton said. Anna also knows how to take her own temperature, with a newfangled wand-thermometer that requires just a quick rub across her forehead and behind her ear.
Despite the whirlwind of doctors, tests and hospital visits, Anna seldom complains, her family said.
“At first she was scared, but now she looks forward to going to the hospital because she knows it’s a fun place and she has some friends there,” said Anna’s “Aunt T,” John’s sister, Tracey Micham.
At the hospital, Anna can play with the other patients and explore the playroom, even as she is receiving her chemotherapy drugs. There are arts and crafts sessions for the patients, and workers from the Build-A-Bear Workshop have twice brought new stuffed animals to Anna in her hospital room.
Anna will go in for her seventh and final chemo treatment later this week. Then she’ll undergo some more tests. If the cancer persists, doctors have suggested that the Peltons pursue an experimental treatment at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
Even with John’s and Sue’s insurance policies — he works for Time Warner Cable; she for Getinge USA, a company that manufactures sterilization equipment — the cost for the new treatment could be substantial. Co-payments for Anna’s treatments have already cost the Peltons a small fortune.
Ever since Anna’s diagnosis, her family, friends and members of the community have stepped in to help. Local merchants have donated goods and funds, and people who don’t even know the Peltons have sent financial donations and well wishes. This Christmas, Wal-Mart donated a pink Nintendo D-S hand-held game system and other toys for Anna.
John’s mother, Lena Martin, sold her home in Ilion, Herkimer County, and moved to Farmington to be close to the family; she watches Anna whenever both John and Sue have to work.
Micham taught herself how to bead bracelets and has earned several thousand dollars for the Peltons by selling her “Anna’s Angelets,” available at www.angeletsforannnalise.com (with three n’s in annnalise).
Local businesses have placed buckets in their stores so customers can donate their spare change. At the end of the month, friends will hold a spaghetti dinner and silent-auction fund-raiser at the Moose Lodge in Canandaigua. Throughout Anna’s illness, members of the Peltons’ faith community at the First United Methodist Church in Canandaigua have prayed for the youngster’s swift recovery. People from across the country and around the world have sent prayers and well-wishes through a Web site that John created at www.caringbridge.org.
Anna’s battle has been a scary adventure for the Peltons. But it has also helped them to “appreciate the small things,” Sue Pelton said.
Through it all, Anna has kept right on smiling.
Contact Daily Messenger writer Hilary Smith at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 343 or at email@example.com.
How to help
EVENT: Spaghetti dinner, silent auction and baked food sale
WHEN: 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26
WHERE: Moose Lodge, 299 Ontario St. Extension, Canandaigua
ENTERTAINMENT: Entertainment will be provided by local musicians and a magician.
COST: $10 per ticket
TICKETS: Tickets can be purchased at the door; by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com; from Jodi Rizzo at Case’s Convenient Mart, 2580 County Road 28, Canandaigua; at Rizzo’s Barber Shop, 164 Mill St., Canandaigua; or at the Rose Corner Bakery, 151 S. Main St., Canandaigua
EXTRAS: Event organizers are still looking for volunteers and donations of cups, bowls, plastic utensils, drinks, items for the baked food sale and items for the silent auction. Silent auction donations can be left at the home of Pat and Rocco Pietropaolo, 108 Howell St. in Canandaigua. For more information, contact Kathy Woodhams at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other ways to help
- Cards and small gifts for Annalise may be sent to her home, at 2146 County Road 8, Canandaigua, NY 14424.
- Additional financial donations to help Annalise’s family may be sent to Dawn Pietropaolo at 45 Highland Terrace, Canandaigua, NY 14424. Checks should be made payable to Annalise Pelton.
- Annalise’s aunt, Tracey Micham, is selling hand-made bracelets of sterling silver, bali and beads, toggles and charms, with all proceeds to help toward Annalise’s medical costs. Log onto www.angeletsforannnalise.com for more details or to make an order.
- The Canandaigua Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a blood drive in Annalise’s honor on Feb. 6, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at All Things Art, 65 South Main St., Canandaigua. Cards will be available at the drive to sign and send to the Peltons. To make an appointment, call 394-2260; walk-ins are also welcome.