Cheerful, generous and compassionate. Silly and playful. Joyful. Determined. Green-eyed eight-year-old Brooke Hester fought cancer since age three. Afflicted with stage IV Neuroblastoma, Brooke never let her painful disease or subsequent treatments stop her from helping others.
What started as a misdiagnosis of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in late 2010, turned into the devastating diagnosis of stage IV Neuroblastoma cancer, “the most common extra cranial solid tumor cancer in infants in young children,” according to Brooke’s mom, Jessica Hester. For the rest of her life, Brooke underwent surgeries, multiple rounds of traditional radiation, chemotherapy, blood radiation, countless blood and platelet transfusions, stem cell bone marrow rescues, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy/personalized medicine. “Nobody knew better than Brooke that there wasn’t anything we didn’t try to stop her resistant form of neuroblastoma cancer from growing,” says Hester.
A lover of flowers, Brooke was unable to keep a live bouquet brought to her in the hospital due to the risk of infection. Sad at the loss of her flowers and missing her hair, she was ecstatic to be gifted a floral headband from a neighbor, and Brooke wore it proudly. But, at the age of three and a half, she selflessly gave it to another pediatric cancer patient she met while in the hospital.
That generous act was the beginning of Brooke’s Blossoming Hope for Childhood Cancer Foundation. More blossom headbands were made and shared. Word spread. People got involved. Donations started pouring in. To date, Brooke’s nonprofit foundation has raised almost $200,000 for pediatric cancer research, in addition to “nearly 20,000 care packages [of handcrafted headwear] now distributed in 40 countries,” says Hester. “It is important to note that we do not sell blossoms and headwear but give them away to children with cancer and to patient’s siblings as requested and make headwear not just for girls but boys as well because these were Brooke’s wishes,” explains Hester. The foundation strives to increase pediatric cancer research to develop effective treatments for children. Campaigning for improved pediatric cancer medication, Brooke says in a YouTube video, “I think kids should have a chance to try the drugs first, before the grown-ups.”
During this time, Brooke became a champion for pediatric cancer research in the community. Her fight for more research and treatment options led her to meet the Texas governor, Amy Grant, Taylor Swift, Bailee Madison and more, and to interact with Miranda Lambert mid concert, a video that has gone viral. This attention to Brooke and her blossoms has brought to light the lack of adequate cancer drugs for children.
Brooke succumbed to one of the leading causes of death of children on June 26 at 8 years, 2 months young at Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth. “We hope that by indefinitely sharing Brooke’s life and story that we can bring about change to stop cancer from being the number one disease killer of our children and bring new hope to each tomorrow,” says Hester.
10 Things You Didn’t Know About Brooke:
1. She loved to go fishing with her daddy.
2. She would get upset if she met someone she wanted to share an awareness blossom with and didn’t have her bag or purse on hand to share one.
3. She was an excellent swimmer jumping off of the diving board at age 3.
4. Brooke was obsessed with mud puddles and sand castles and loved being at the beach.
5. Some days they would leave the hospital and just be sun chasers, because Brooke loved being outside so much and missed out on a lot of that during long hospital days.
6. Brooke loved science and education programs like Ruff Ruffman, Wild Kratts and Bill Nye the Science Guy.
7. She loved the adventure and escape of Magic Tree House books.
8. Brooke was a creative storyteller and writer and loved to make up fun stories.
9. Brooke was very spontaneous and random and loved making abstract art that was as unique as her brilliant mind.
10. “She was the most gifted baby and child I have ever known and my master’s expertise was in early childhood development – Brooke was always off the developmental charts achieving things well before other babies and kids her age,” said Brooke’s mother.