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Rebekah Lurvey shares a moment with her niece, Isabella, a few weeks ago, giving her some much needed respite from treatments she’s been receiving. (Courtesy Photo))

Bedford girl, 13, finds holiday peace away from treatments, hospitals

A spirited and beautiful young girl confronted with unimaginable health problems in the past year is looked forward to a peaceful Christmas far away from the white walls of a hospital.

“I just want to be happy for a little while during Christmas, because that is what the holiday is all about,” said 13-year-old Rebekah Lurvey.

Just entering her teenage years, this energetic Bedford Jaguars cheerleader has become an inspiration to many of her peers and siblings, who have rallied around her, offering hope and friendship.

Rebekah, an eighth-grader at Ross Lurgio Middle School, has spent the past six months in and out of area hospitals battling a rare, undifferentiated and aggressive type of cancer that started with a small bump on her back.

She has undergone chemotherapy and blood transfusions, and next month will start a special radiation treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. Despite the hair loss, frequent nausea and lack of energy, Rebekah has found a way to move beyond her uncertain diagnosis, taking her illness one day at a time.

“I am amazed at her strength,” said Rebekah’s mother, Sharon Angel of Ridgewood Condominiums. “There are definitely times she feels that she can’t do it anymore and she tells me, ‘I’m not strong enough,’ but more often than not, she faces the challenge head on.”

When people ask Rebekah how she is able to manage all of the doctors’ visits and hospital stays, she tells them, “I don’t have a choice.”

Rebekah’s illness first came to light last summer when her older sister noticed a bump on her back during a camping trip.

Rebekah was already having some back pain and had lost a noticeable amount of weight, prompting her mom to call the pediatrician. Following blood work, X-rays and an MRI scan, Rebekah was referred to Elliot Hospital, where surgery was performed to remove a baseball-sized tumor from her back. Her pathology report was given to experts at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who concluded they had never seen this type of cancer before, according to Angel.

“They see something this rare only every two years,” she said, explaining the cancer was classified as undifferentiated sarcoma, an unpredictable type of cancer.

An aggressive treatment plan was established after the tumor had grown back completely within four weeks, explained Angel. This time, however, the tumor had expanded into Lurvey’s transverse processes area near her spine, meaning it was too dangerous to remove the cancerous tumor.

The aggressive treatment plan, which includes chemotherapy every two weeks, has shrunk the tumor and pulled it away from her spine slightly, according to Angel.

“But each cycle she gets a little more run down,” Angel said of her daughter.

On Jan. 7, Rebekah will begin a special proton therapy radiation treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital, which will take place five days a week for five weeks, followed by another surgery on March 25 to remove whatever tumor is left in her back. While helping to improve her daughter’s health is Angel’s primary concern, she is also worried about bills and other finances, as she is living solely on child support payments. A group of local mothers have established a fund to help defray some of the family’s expenses.

“Obviously, the family is trying to keep it together, but as you can imagine, this time of year can be tough on many people.

Everybody really wants to help them out in whatever way they can,” said Dianne Kashiwabara of Bedford, who set up the fund at TD Bank. “They have a lot on their plate, and we want to put them at ease a little bit.”

Donations are being accepted to the Lurvey/Angel fund at TD Bank, 141 South River Road, Bedford, NH 03110.

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