By the time she was 7, Erin Little had already gone through more than many of us experience in a lifetime.
She was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) when she was 6 years old. Though her cancer was “very treatable,” says her mom Lynne, like with most children with ALL, the initial month of treatment involved an “all-out war with the disease.”
“They just bombarded her with every single chemo drug they use,” Little says. The intent is to kill as many leukemia cells as early as possible, and most children go into remission after the first month. After that, to keep them in remission, they receive lower and fewer dosages of the drugs for another two and a-half years.
Erin, her mom says, had “an exceptionally rough time” with the drugs. She lost weight, her appetite decreased dramatically, and she became so weak she couldn’t walk. She also developed extreme light sensitivity.
“We put sheets over her windows. It was completely dark in her room, like a cave in there. She’d wear sunglasses in bed. To open her eyes was very painful,” Little says.
But the good news was that the treatment worked, and her cancer went into remission.
During that time, the Make A Wish Foundation approached the Little family. Lynne and Erin’s dad, John, were overwhelmed with her treatment schedule and also thought the foundation granted wishes only to terminally ill children, so they declined the offer.
Last year, they were approached again by a friend of John’s, who serves on the foundation’s board of directors. He explained that all children who’ve suffered a life-threatening illness are eligible to have a wish granted and made the offer again.
This time, they took them up on it.
Erin’s wish? During her illness, she often listened to Radio Disney. Because of that, she says, she developed a love of music.
“I like singing, and I really like music,” says Erin, whose favorite musicians are Jessica Simpson and Outkast. “I thought it’d be cool to have my own CD like the other singers and bands.”
She enlisted two of her friends from St. Patrick Catholic School, Christina Rossa and Gina Drummond, and her younger sister, Kelly, as band mates. The girls’ group, Code Pink, went into Juniper Studios in early April and cut a two-song CD. They worked with a producer to write two songs, and then spent six hours recording them.
The process, Erin says, was more difficult than she imagined.
“It was very, very hard, just a lot of hard work and a lot of singing stuff over and over again. A very rough day.
“Most people who did that probably wouldn’t want to sing anymore after the whole recording process,” she says with an insider’s knowledge. “But I’m still going to sing.”
This month, copies of Code Pink’s CD will be available at Make A Wish Foundation’s Wish Night. Erin doesn’t expect to become famous, but that’s OK, she says. She’d rather be an actress than a singer anyway, and she’s already taking the first step toward that career as well. She has a role in her school play, based on the adventures of Lewis and Clark.
But that’s not the best news. If all goes well, in November she’ll mark her fifth year of being cancer-free. And according to the doctors, her prognosis is excellent.
It’s news Lynne Little will be happy to share with the people who came to the family’s aid when word spread of Erin’s devastating diagnosis.
“People just came out of the woodwork; people we didn’t even know,” says Little, whose family has lived in the neighborhood for almost 14 years. “We’re still very grateful for all of the help the community showed and did for us. It was amazing to see how people can come together in a bad situation.”