Parents

'Please don't forget about us': Pediatric cancer survivor makes plea to Trump

Abriel Bentley has spent the past few years fighting for her life. The 8-year-old was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma — an aggressive form of bone cancer — in September 2015, and endured 17 rounds of chemotherapy and an extensive leg surgery during her battle with the disease.

And, although she completed treatment and has been in remission since the summer of 2016, the Scottsdale, Arizona, girl continues to fight for pediatric cancer awareness, boldly declaring her desire to see an increase in funding given to childhood cancer research.

At present, the National Cancer Institute spends only 4 percent of its funding on pediatric cancer research, a fact that Abriel hopes to change through a video appeal to President Donald Trump.

"Dear President Trump," Abriel says in her video message, which has been viewed by more than 1 million people. "Congratulations — you beat the odds. Please help us beat the odds against childhood cancer, too."

"Some of us die from the effects of chemo," she continues in the video. "It's just too much for our little bodies — it's just not OK."

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Abriel's mom, Nikkole Bentley, says watching her daughter go through cancer treatment was horrifying for herself and her husband, Rod.

Nikkole Bentley
Abriel went through 17 rounds of chemotherapy treatment during her battle with Ewings Sarcoma - a form of pediatric bone cancer.

"Unfortunately, none of these kids make it though treatment unscathed," said Bentley, explaining that chemotherapy can leave children with everything from learning disabilities to organ failure.

"This is what you are up against — you put your child through brutal chemo treatments in the hope that they live, but then you are faced with knowing you have caused them irreversible damage...that may kill them anyway," Bentley continued. "No matter what the outcome, no one affected by childhood cancer is ever the same."

Nikkole Bentley
Abriel at CureFest, a rally for pediatric cancer awareness held in Washington, DC.

Bentley says she attended CureFest — a rally for childhood cancer awareness and survivors — with Abriel in September 2016. While in Washington, D.C., Abriel and a friend happened to be in front of Trump International Hotel. They decided to make a video for candidate Trump and ask for his help with pediatric cancer research.

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"They sent it out on Instagram, hoping that he would hear their plea," said Bentley. "When we were watching the presidential election, Abriel asked, 'If Mr. Trump became president, could we please record another video asking him for help?'"

Abriel's most recent video — posted to the Team Abri Facebook page — includes a heartbreaking montage of photos and video from her cancer treatments. The images show a crying, sick girl, struggling to fight against the disease overtaking her body.

Blue Stitch Photography
Abriel says she hopes President Trump will see her video, and help find a cure for cancer by increasing childhood cancer research funding.

Abriel says she believes the president can help by bringing more funding to pediatric cancer research, so scientists can find a cure for childhood cancer. Because of this, she wanted to show what children with cancer truly endure throughout their treatment.

"Then (people) know that cancer isn't just about smiley, bald kids getting free stuff and free trips," Abrielle told TODAY Parents. "It's hard and it hurts. It's not fair. It's not OK!"

As the mother of a cancer survivor, Bentley says showing her daughter in those vulnerable moments was important.

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"If you ask her now how hard her year of treatment was, her answer will be that it wasn't that bad," said Bentley. "We, on the other hand, can never forget the horror of watching our little girl become skin and bones with gray skin and black and blue eyes — holding her while she cried as her beautiful, long, golden hair fell out in clumps on the floor. Our ears can never forget the screams while she begged us to help every time the needle was shoved into her chest at the beginning of every treatment and with every blood draw."

Blue Stitch Photography
Abriel with her father, Rod, mother, Nikkole, and sisters Ashlyn, 17, and Ariya, 2.

It's those memories that drive Bentley and her family to continue to spread their message.

"If no one is willing to talk about the reality of what these kids go through, then no one will be willing to fight for change," said Bentley. "I get it — it's horrible to watch — but I promise you that it is so much worse to live it."

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"As a mom, watching my little girl use her voice to try to make a difference for other children like her has made me so proud. I would hope, more that anything, that it brings about the change our children deserve — that people hear Abri's words and see just a small piece of what she went through and choose to take a stand for our kids."

Nikkole Bentley
Bentley says watching their daughter battle cancer was a horrifying experience for herself and her husband, Rod.

TODAY Parents contacted the White House to ask if President Trump has seen Abriel's video. And, although we did not receive a response to our request for comment, Abriel has a special way she'll know if the president has heard her words.

In her video, she asks that he light the White House with gold lights — the color of pediatric cancer awareness.

"This will let everyone know that change is coming," Abriel says in the video.

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