Chrissy Turner, the Utah 8-year-old who was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer, is recovering from a mastectomy and has a hopeful future — thanks to support from two celebrities, as well as hundreds of other strangers from around the world.
Actor and comedian David Spade donated $10,000 in his 7-year-old daughter Harper’s name to Chrissy’s GoFundMe page.
DeAngelo Williams of the the Pittsburgh Steelers, who lost his mom and four aunts to breast cancer and whose foundation raises funds for research, has sent a care package to the little girl.
“It's all so humbling — all for our sweet little Chrissy,” said her mother, Annette Turner, a personal trainer and holistic life coach from Centerville. “We have always known she is one in a million, and we are so blessed by the love and support of friends everywhere.”
“I often succumb to tears because there just aren't enough words to express the depths of our gratitude,” Turner, 43, told TODAY. “We were all in shock and brought to tears when David Spade reached out and donated. … What a generous man! All I could think of is him sitting there reading about our Chrissy and looking at his own daughter.”
Chrissy, a shy third-grader who loves dragons and Legos, is one of the youngest patients ever to undergo a mastectomy. Last October, she was diagnosed with secretory carcinoma, a rare and slow-growing cancer that typically affects children in their teens.
“You go along living your lives the best you can, then devastation like this strikes and you’re paralyzed,” said Turner.
Family friend Melissa Papaj set up a GoFundMe page to help offset expenses, raising more than $80,000 in just 26 days.
“Annette is a very private person and this has been overwhelming for her,” Papaj, 35, told TODAY. “It hit so close to home. My baby is the same age.”
On Dec. 7, Chrissy had successful surgery to remove the breast tissue from one side of her chest at Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah. Biopsies of lymph nodes showed the disease had not spread.
“It was a rough few days for her dealing with the pain, but she’s been getting better every day,” said her mother.
This is the third time the family has faced cancer: Turner was successfully treated for cervical cancer in 2000; her 43-year-old husband Troy, a Desert Storm veteran who works as an equipment specialist at Hill Air Force base, has struggled with non-Hodgkin lymphoma since 2008.
Medical bills forced the family to declare bankruptcy in 2013. They also have another daughter, Brianna, who is 16 and healthy.
“It has been a very difficult time for all of us and quite a roller-coaster ride of emotions,” said Turner, who has been told the cancer could return. “As for me, although her surgery is done, I still worry for the future and for my husband and Brianna.”
Chrissy’s surgical drain was removed last week, which has helped her move around more. “She's slowly becoming more active,” said Turner. “She even went out in the snow for a bit this morning and enjoyed it.”
Her recovery will take about six weeks, but doctors say she can return to school sometime after the holidays.
“Chrissy has been in high spirits these past few days,” said Turner. “She even said to me the other day, ‘Aren’t you excited for Christmas, mom? My surgery will just be a thing of the past and we can have fun as a family.’”
Turner said she tears up every time she thinks of the generosity people have extended to her “sweet little angel.”
“You see how great humanity is," she said. "Our hope and prayers rest in the day that we will be able to pay forward the love and generosity that has been so abundantly showered upon Chrissy and the rest of our family.
“We have been lifted up and carried as a family through this traumatic time and you just can't even find the words.”