After being diagnosed with the bone cancer osteosarcoma in early March, Denton 11-year-old Hallie Barnard, who received a bone marrow transplant in November to cure her Diamond-Blackfan anemia, underwent a 13-hour surgery Monday in Houston to amputate her leg above the site of the tumor.
“She’s healing up well,” said Corie Ann Gregory, co-president of the nonprofit Hallie’s Heroes. “In true Hallie fashion and form, [she’s] going through physical therapy and just saying, ‘Let’s do this — no pain, no gain.’ So she’s doing really good.”
Diamond-Blackfan anemia is a disorder that primarily affects the bone marrow, according to the U.S. National Library of Science. In DBA, the bone marrow malfunctions and fails to make enough red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the body’s tissues.
Beginning physical therapy, the current long-term plan is for Hallie to undergo more chemotherapy before eventually having routine scans to make sure the cancer has not come back.
“She named the tumor Cleopatra,” Gregory said. “The whole kind of joke was ‘Sayonara, Cleopatra.’ So yeah, she named it Cleopatra, and Cleopatra is now gone.”
And though it is now cured following her bone marrow transplant, it was Hallie’s DBA and not her transplant that caused the cancer, Gregory said.
“With Hallie having DBA diagnosed when she was 16 months old, they go through a lot of ... blood transfusions and steroid treatments and things of that nature,” Gregory said. “So a lot of times, if a DBA kid has osteosarcoma, it’s pre-bone marrow transplant. Hallie just happens to be, I believe, the first one to have it post-transplant.”
People who have DBA have increased risks of developing bone cancers, including osteosarcoma, according to the American Cancer Society and the National Library of Medicine.
Since Hallie was diagnosed with cancer, her nonprofit, Hallie’s Heroes, expanded its mission.
“We’ve opened up Hallie’s Heroes from just DBA to childhood cancers,” Gregory said. “We just recently did that and so it makes her really happy. So, on an emotional standpoint, she’s happy to watch that Hallie’s Heroes is still succeeding.”
While the Hallie’s Heroes bylaws prevents board members — who include Hallie — from benefiting from anything the organization does, a separate GoFundMe campaign at https://bit.ly/2LsCJq2 has raised about $44,000 for Hallie and her family.
“We really are just thankful for the community of Denton and the surrounding communities — Fort Worth and just the metroplex — for everything they’ve poured into Hallie’s Heroes and how they’ve supported us in fulfilling a little girl’s dream,” Gregory said. “Because that’s one thing that Hallie made us promise her is that we would not stop looking for [bone marrow] matches for the other kids and for helping the other children and the other families.”