Grace Fry has gone from fighting for her life to rehearsing for “The Nutcracker.”
The Messiah Lutheran School fourth-grader has seen Lincoln Midwest Ballet Company’s time—honored production every year since she was 3 years old, and was a first-time performer two years ago, at the age of 8.
But a lot has happened since then. A diagnosis on Sept. 9, 2016, turned her life upside-down: Doctors confirmed the Lincoln girl had acute myeloid leukemia (AML) – a disease usually uncommon before the age of 45.
Doctors embarked on an aggressive schedule of chemotherapy. Her third-grade year in school was one filled with about seven months of treatments and hospital stays.
When rehearsal time for last year’s “Nutcracker” arrived, Grace was in the middle of treatments and begged her doctor to let her go watch her older sister - Taylor, now a 16-year-old high school junior at Lincoln Lutheran - dance in the show. “If I can’t dance in it, I at least want to see my sister and friends dance,” the young girl said.
With some major stipulations, her doctor OK’d the request. Grace was granted a home visit – a break from the hospital – just in time to see “The Nutcracker.” With her immune system wiped out by the chemo, the little girl put on a mask, which she needed any time she was not in the hospital, and the Lied Center staff escorted her to a private room, as she couldn’t be exposed to anyone.
“Both my husband and I were in tears as we watched Grace,” Mandy Fry said. “Although she’s seen the show every year since she was 3, and had even danced in it, she literally sat on the edge of her seat, as though it were the first time she was watching the ballet.”
Grace has battled back from the horrific disease. Her parents are grateful for early detection. “She seemed perfectly normal, but we noticed bruising on her legs and decided to have it looked at,” Grace’s mom said.
Now in remission
2017 has been a much better year for the Fry family. Doctors reported on Jan. 2 that Grace’s condition was in remission. She was able to return to school in late March, and resumed dancing. She has been cast in the role of an elf for this year’s “Nutcracker,” coming to the Lied Center stage for three shows Dec. 16-17.
Shari True, whose dance school has worked with Grace since the age of 3, said: “She is an amazing little girl with the determination of 100 children. No child should have to face this disease, and yet Grace hit it head on, fighting for her life and determined to beat it.”
Mandy Fry and her husband are prepared for another emotional experience as they watch this year’s “Nutcracker” – but for a very different reason.
“We couldn’t be happier, or more grateful,” said Mandy. “Grace is in remission, and now we pray that it stays that way. We thank God every day. We will watch the show this year through completely different lenses.”