1. Living The Life Of A Regular 7-Year-Old
Abri was born in Scottsdale, Arizona, where she lived with her mom Nikkole, her dad Rod, and two sisters Ashlyn and Ariya. Her family had an amazing relationship and they would do many things together.
Abri's older sister Ashlyn and her younger sister Ariya were so close, and they all looked out for one another. Abri was always known as the fun-loving dancer who was full of life and energy.
2. Abri Was An Avid Dancer
When Abri spoke about dance, her eyes would light up because it was her passion. She took dance classes, and she was so excited for her recitals because Abri loved to perform in front of big crowds.
Abri was incredibly active, and she didn't show any signs that there was anything wrong. Her parents never imagined the events that would start to unfold in the next few months. How could anything happen to their dancing diva?
3. Abri Was Having Horrible Leg Pain, So Her Parents Took Her To The Doctor
One evening as Abri was getting ready for bed, she complained to her mom about a sharp pain in her left shin. When she woke up in the morning, the pain was still there, but she felt well enough to go to school. After school things were normal, but again around bedtime, she was feeling pain again.
As an avid dancer and growing girl, her parents thought it was just growing pains. At first, they didn't think much of the problem and told her to go back to sleep. At her age, it was regular to feel these leg pains, but Abri knew these were different than usual.
4. Shooting Pains Strike At Night
Abri tried to fall asleep, but she was in too much pain. No matter how hard she tried to get comfortable, she was so uncomfortable. Her parents began to worry and knew they had to get her to the doctor.
As parents, it was so difficult for Nikkole and Rod to watch their little girl in pain. It was a confusing time for the family, and they didn't know what each day would bring, but they hoped the pain would subside.
5. First Emergency Room Visit
One evening when Abri went to bed, she woke up screaming in agony. Her parents rushed her to the emergency room because they didn't know what else to do for their sweet little girl.
When they got to the hospital, the doctors X-rayed Abri's leg, and it didn't show anything. Abri and her parents were sent home because the doctors assumed it was only growing pains.
6. Things Continued To Get Worse
The emergency room doctors told Abri to alternate between Tylenol and Motrin, which her parents weren't happy about. They liked to keep things as natural as possible, and this was only reducing the pain for short periods of time.
One minute Abri was in terrible pain, and the next, she would be running around the yard. Abri continued to go to school, but her mom called to see how she was doing during the day. Her teachers said she would be limping and then fine every few minutes. There was clearly a serious problem.
7. Something is Seriously Wrong
After hearing from Abri's teachers, Nikkole decided to make an appointment with the pediatrician. Abri and her mom went to the doctor after school one day, and she was still having the same pain but no other symptoms.
The doctor didn't notice anything, and he was another person who said it was probably growing pains. Although, he did recommend seeing an orthopedic surgeon if there were no improvements in a week. The doctor also ordered a few blood tests just to be sure. The blood work came back normal, which was odd considering what would happen next.
8. Time To Get An Expert Opinion
Abri was not improving, so her father started to research orthopedic surgeons. They got an appointment at the Phoenix Children's Hospital, and her parents were hopeful that they would finally get to the bottom of her pain.
The doctors they had already seen said it was growing pains, and her parents couldn't believe that anymore. They had to watch as their child was in so much pain, but none of the pain medications were working. They couldn't wait to have some kind of answers.
9. Leaving School, And Not Returning The Next Day
On a Wednesday afternoon, Nikkole picked Abri up from school. Abri left her backpack because she thought she would be back before the end of the day. She got to the appointment and the doctors noticed a bit of swelling so they admitted her.
The doctors noticed the area was warm, so they gave her a boot cast and scheduled an MRI. Abri and her parents were moved to the 7th floor, which was the cancer ward, and her parents were heartbroken by the sight of the other children with cancer, but this couldn't be what their daughter had.
10. Test Results That Would Change Her Life
Abri's MRI revealed something wrong with the bone in her leg. At first, the doctors thought it was a bone infection, and they sent her into surgery where she would get a biopsy. The doctors thought it could be several different things, and they had to patiently wait for the test results.
Abri's test results finally came back, and her parents were introduced to the head of oncology. Their world stopped, and they couldn't believe what was happening. The biopsy revealed the worst-case scenario; it was Ewing Sarcoma in her left tibia.
11. What Her Diagnosis Meant
Abri's parents could not even fathom the news they were hearing. The doctors said her chances of survival were between 10 and 85 percent. She would also have to have a port that would run straight to her heart for 17 rounds of toxic chemotherapy.
Abri wanted to go home so badly, and she was terrified when people had to enter her room in gowns, masks, and gloves. Her diagnosis was the last thing the family expected, but they had to bond together to get through this.
12. Starting Treatment
Abri was taken into surgery to have her port placed on her chest. The treatment was going to be awful, but they would do anything to save Abri's life. The doctors said that based on the size of the tumor, there was limited time before the cancer spread, so they had to treat her right away.
They had a whole plan in action to do whatever it took to save Abri and make her pain go away. While Abri didn't fully comprehend what was happening at the time, she was ready to fight for her life. This little girl was not giving up anytime soon.
13. Brave Little Fighter
Chemotherapy is toxic, and it takes a significant toll on the body while killing cancerous cells. As Abri started treatment, she lost all her hair, and her immune system was destroyed. Because of this, she wasn't able to return to school. Abri was devastated and missed her friends terribly.
Abri was a fighter, and despite the nausea, lack of energy, and all the other side effects from chemotherapy, she tried to keep her spirits high. With the support of her family, friends, and everyone praying for her, she persevered through this long battle.
14. Family Sticking Together
As Abri was getting her treatment, her parents saw their little girl waste away. The chemotherapy treatments are the same strength they give adults, so she lost a lot of weight, and her skin turned a greyish color. It was a trying time, but her family bonded together to support one another.
Since Abri's family was so close, they provided her with all the support she needed. Her sisters, Ashlyn and Ariya, would always try to make Abri smile, but Ashlyn had to learn to be the older independent child while her parents were taking care of Abri.
15. Trying To See The Light At The End Of The Tunnel
The chemotherapy treatments would take a year to finish so that Abri would count down the days till the last one. She was hopeful and kept pushing through because she knew she could kick cancer's butt.
The doctors had more upsetting news, and there was a slight set back during her treatment. Although the tumor was gone, it left a hole in her bone. They would have to remove the bone and figure out a way to save her leg.
16. An Arm For A Leg
Since Abri's tibia was destroyed from the cancer, the doctors had to remove it and replace it with a cadaver bone. The new tibia would be from a donated arm bone. The doctors came up with this solution so she could keep her leg.
This was a pretty major surgery for Abri, but she continued to wear a brave face. She even came up with a name for her new bone; she called it "arg." Abri had good and bad days, but she always tried to smile, and her family was with her every step of the way.
17. Last Round Of Chemo
Finally, the day came, on July 18, 2016, Abri had her last round of chemotherapy. Abri fought through this tough battle, and she finally found the light on the other side of the tunnel. After 17 rounds of chemo, three surgeries, and nine months in a wheelchair, she was finally finished.
This battle was long and trying, but Abri proved she was a fierce fighter. She had to miss an entire year of school, she lost her hair twice, and spent countless hours in the ER, clinic, and hospital, but it was finally over. The next steps in her journey would not be easy, but she had already finished the hardest part.
18. Advocating For Children Like Her
Once Abri was done with treatment, she got more involved in advocating for other children with cancer. She had overcome so many hurdles in her own battle, and she wanted to help others in the same position.
With her mom Nikkole, Abri began to visit other families who had children with cancer like her. She gave those families support and listened to them share their stories. Nikkole realized that Abri was a natural at helping other people.
19. An Inspiration To Everyone
Abri's story and her altruism started to gain attention from people who went through the same struggles as her. She now strives to raise awareness about children's cancers and how they are not rare.
Abri and her family had a goal to attract the attention of state and national government. They aim to receive more funding for treatment and support for children all over America. She is recognized for her work by so many, and people admire how much wisdom she has at such a young age.
20. Bad News Strikes Again
About a year after her last chemo treatment, Aubrey shared a heartfelt video about some heartbreaking news she received. At her annual check-up, the doctors thought she relapsed and her parents got the heartbreaking phone call.
Her mother fell to the floor in tears as the doctor gave her the news she never wanted to hear again. Her sister screamed and cried as she held Abri, and the family was devastated. How would they fight through this again? Was Abri strong enough to beat this a second time?
21. Misdiagnosis Leads To Happy Tears
Luckily, those questions would never have to be answered. When they went to the hospital the next day, the doctor spoke to Abri's parents in private and told them she had not relapsed. He knew something was wrong with the test results, so he called other oncologists and pathologists for second opinions.
After testing her scans again, the doctor found that she tested negative for Ewings cells, but her bone marrow cells were stained blue like the cancer cells. The doctor came in to tell Abri she wouldn't need chemo again, and she broke out in tears of happiness. She was so excited to go home.
22. Never Ending Doctors Appointments
After her family found out that she didn't have cancer again, they celebrated. It was a joyous time because she wouldn't have to suffer through the horrible effects of chemo for the second time. Although she did not relapse, she still had to continue to go to her regular doctor's appointments.
Abri continued to go for regular testing, but her leg was still fragile, even with the new bone. It was deformed, and she had difficulty walking on it. While she didn't have cancer anymore, the doctors had to think of longterm solutions for her leg.
23. Celebrating Special Milestones
While Abri was thinking about the next steps for her leg, she wasn't going to let that stop her from celebrating important moments in her life. She invited all her friends over for a special sleepover party for her birthday, and they all celebrated this special milestone.
When children are diagnosed with cancer, they are not guaranteed another birthday. Therefore, her family knows how important it is to celebrate each year Abri is alive and healthy. They never take anything for granted since she was diagnosed.
24. Getting Help To Make Difficult Decisions
While she was celebrating life's important milestones, Abri and her family had to make more life-changing decisions. When Abri first got her tibia replaced, the bone was sufficiently held together by screws and metal, but her leg was deformed. It got to the point where she could barely walk anymore.
Abri then fell and broke her femur bone, which meant she had to go back into a wheelchair. After that healed, she was in pain again and the doctors realized the cadaver bone broke. They had to replace it with a metal rod, but it was not a longterm solution. Abri decided that she wanted to be able to walk again so, amputation was the best solution.
25. Donating Her Foot To Science
Abri and her parents, along with the doctor's opinions, decided to amputate up to her knee. If she had another limb salvage like her first surgery, she wouldn't be mobile, and Abri wanted to run and dance again.
Since she would be losing her leg, Abri decided to donate it to science. It could be used for cancer research and advance the understanding of childhood cancer. Here she is signing the release forms to donate her foot.
26. Going In For Surgery
Although Abri knew this was going to be a long and painful recovery process, she was excited to be able to walk and move around again. They found a team of doctors who would use her ankle bone and attach it to her knee, then remove the rest of her leg.
The doctors also had to take a skin graft to cover up the area that was removed. It was a long surgery, and Abri was in a lot of pain when she got out of surgery. It would be a long recovery, but she was ready for this fight because it would help her get back to dancing.
27. Recovering Well
In November 2017, Abri had part of her leg amputated up to the knee, and she was recovering from surgery. For the first few days, she had an epidural to help with the pain. The doctors said that if they had tried to save the leg she would have been in pain for the rest of her life.
At first, she was able to still her foot and big toe, but they saved her growth plate, so her stump would be able to grow a couple more inches. They pulled off an incredible surgery, and she was now on her way to having a more mobile life.
28. Stumpy Was Starting To Heal
Abri had named her first cadaver bone "Arg," so she had to name her amputation, and she decided to call it "Stumpy." While she was in the hospital recovering, another amputee told her she would soon be able to do anything she wanted with a prosthetic.
It was definitely not her first choice to amputate her leg. The doctors would never have amputated if they had to go above the knee, so she was happy they found a way to keep it below the knee. Abri and her family are thankful for the scars along the way.
29. Getting Used To Her New Situation
Abri had to get used to her walking on crutches again after her amputation. It would take some time before she was able to get her first prosthetic because the leg needed to heal and the swelling had to go down.
While Abri still had time before she would be fully mobile, it was exciting not to have constant pain every day. She was counting down the days till she was ready for a new leg and could walk and dance again.
30. Abri's First Prosthetic Leg
After months of waiting, it was finally time for her first prosthetic. Since the doctor did not amputate above her knee, it was easier to learn to operate the new prosthetic. Abri couldn't wait to show off her leg.
For her first prosthetic, Abri chose Paris fabric with glittery Eiffel Towers. Although it would take some time to get used to the leg, she knew that this would give her so many more opportunities to be mobile again.
31. Physical Therapy For The New Leg
While she was excited to run around on her new prosthetic, Abri had to go to physical therapy to learn how to use it. At first, it wasn't very comfortable, but the exercises helped it become more comfortable over time.
Each day with the new leg brought on different challenges, but it was a learning journey for Abri and her family. Soon she would be able to do whatever she wanted, and it was like a new lease on life.
32. Stronger Than Ever
Abri has face challenges in her life that most children never have to think about. She beat cancer, went through the most challenging treatments, and came out on top. Abri is a fierce survivor who is ready to take on the world.
Not only is Abri a warrior, but she is ready to help other people going through the same challenges. Abri is an advocate for childhood cancer, and she hopes to get more funding and advocacy for this awful disease.
33. The Most Supportive Parents
When people think about childhood cancer, they often forget about the families that are fighting the battle with the children. Nikkole and Rod were with Abri every step of the way while parenting two other children.
Abri's parents and sisters were there for every treatment, surgery, and dealing with all the side effects of cancer. Even when they were exhausted from the countless hours in the hospital, her family would never leave Abri's side.
34. Continuing To Dance Through Life
As Abri got used to her new leg, she was excited to start dancing again. She wasn't going to give up her first passion, and it was exciting to get back in the studio. Her biggest inspiration through treatment was a fellow cancer survivor and dancer, Evan Ruggiero.
After seeing a video of Abri dancing on her new leg on Instagram, Ruggiero surprised Abri in the dance studio. Abri was so excited to meet the person she had looked up to and get the chance to tap-dance with him. It was such a special day for her.
35. Making The Most Of Everyday
Now that it has been over two years since Abri got her first prosthetic, she is making the most of every day. Once she was able to move around again, Abri had a long list of things she wanted to accomplish from dancing and running to ice skating and hiking.
While she still has good and bad days, the good far outweighs the bad. Abri gets excited to hike and dedicates her hikes to different people either battling cancer or who have been advocates for the community. Each day is better and brighter as she is still cancer-free.
36. Spreading Awareness
Abri's family created a Facebook page to spread her message and updates on her journey called Team Abri. Nikkole said, " I just want people to know about childhood cancer, period, it’s not going away if people aren’t willing to talk about it."
Abri added, "The adults, they get all the money, and when they get all the money, they get to live. The kids don’t get the money – they don’t get to be a grown-up, so it’s not that fair." She wants to help everyone who has been affected by this tragic disease.
37. Writing To Officials For Help
Abri wasn't going to stop with social media; she was taking it to the national stage. She needed to think bigger with her outreach and spread the word about childhood cancer. Abri decided to create a video to tell her story and spread her message.
By targeting the US government and the President of the United States, she thought they could help raise money to help other children with cancer. She was determined to spread her message.
38. Calling Out The President
Abri starred in a video to raise awareness about her work for childhood cancer. She shared her battle and talked about the people she met through her journey. In a joking jab at the president, she said, "You beat the odds. Please help us beat the odds against childhood cancer, too."
Abri was so poignant, and her words tugged at the heartstrings. Watching a child suffer through childhood cancer is awful, and it is something not even the president could ignore. She said, " Some of us die from the effects of chemo. It's just too much for our little bodies, and it's not ok."
39. Abri Makes A Powerful Speech
Abri was so passionate about this cause, and she tapped into her dance roots to perform for at the Cure Fest. Her powerful speech, coupled with the emotional dance, brought many to tears.
At such a young age, Abri had to grow up quickly while going through her own journey, so she is such a strong and mature presence when she speaks. The amount of passion she has for dance is also immaculate.
40. Gaining Community Support
Abri's Facebook page has grown a lot since her family first started posting. Team Abri now has almost 20,000 followers. She has not only raised awareness about her journey but the other children who are also battling cancer.
With the help of social media, Abri and her family hope to continue the fight against childhood cancer and spread awareness. It is an important cause that they hope to continue to advocate for. Abri will continue to share updates and ways to help the cause on this page.