She celebrated her birthday at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, and everyone wore unicorn horns just like the one she wore today while shaving her dad’s head.
And if you ask 4-year-old Lilly Loding what she wants to be when she grows up, she’ll tell you.
A phlebotomist. Or a ‘poker girl’ as she used to call it.
Lilly has a rare disease called Langerhans cell histiocytosis, and treatment is similar to that of cancer, including chemotherapy.
Lilly’s family ran a fundraiser and awareness campaign in September with a special goal in mind: Shaving Lilly’s dad Nathan’s head when they met their goal. The family raised $9,000 in total, with $4,500 going to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and $4,500 to the Children’s Healing Center.
Only one in 200,000 kids have Langerhans cell histiocytosis, about the same odds of an asteroid dubbed 2002 NT7 striking Earth on Feb. 1, 2019. Only a handful of children at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital have the same condition.
Lilly began treatment in February, with an intense initial six weeks. She reacted so well to treatment that just two months later she was already in maintenance. Next week marks the one-year mark from Lilly’s first biopsy that revealed this rare condition. The first signs of her tumor showed up at her birthday party last year. She had an ultrasound that didn’t come back normal and, after that, had an MRI that showed even more.
“I’ve always wanted to shave my head, so why not do it and raise some money for a good cause?” said Lilly’s dad, Nathan. Coworkers, friends and family all chipped in and donated toward the cause.
“Do you see any holes in my head, any tattoos or anything that funny up there that I should know about?” he joked as Lilly helped Child Life specialist Ashley Kirvin shave her dad’s head. “This is really perfect timing for this as I needed to buy some shampoo.”
Lilly giggled as she helped out with clippers in hand.
Grandpa Don Loding asked her if she thought her dad still looked the same. “No,” she said. “Grandpa, he looks more like you now!”
Lilly’s mom, Erin, said she feels so lucky to have the children’s hospital close to home.
“Everyone here knows their specialty so well,” she said. “We were able to catch this very quickly and start treatment right away. We feel extremely blessed to have had this all happen over such a short period of time with such a wonderful team so close to home.”