Angela House’s parents knew something was wrong when their daughter no longer had the energy to dance. She was dizzy when she stood up, had trouble breathing and couldn’t do her flips.
A blood test soon brought the news: Angela was battling acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Within hours of the diagnosis, she was on a helicopter from her hometown of Chester in Plumas County to the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.
The two months that followed have been tough, but Angela, 13, has become a light in the hospital’s pediatrics unit. And to thank the doctors and nurses who have cared for her – and brighten up Christmas for other children in the hospital – Angela held an impromptu singing concert on Thursday.
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Removing for just a few minutes the surgical mask she has to wear, Angela belted into a stirring rendition of “Snowflakes,” by Olivia Holt. Then it was Cher’s, “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me.”
“I’m down now, but I’ll get back up again,” Angela sang. “Times are hard, but I was built tough. I’m gonna show you all what I’m made of.”
About a dozen people watched Angela. Very few had dry eyes.
“She amazes us,” said Katie Huiras, a nurse in the pediatric clinic. “The way she fights, she amazes us every day.”
Angela said she wanted to sing for her caregivers to show her gratitude for what they’ve done since she arrived at the hospital in October. Her nurses said Angela spends a lot of time cheering up other patients, and she’s a beloved presence in the hospital. Moments before singing, she brought a wrapped present to a baby boy staying in a nearby room.
When Angela turned 13 earlier this month, she made it known she wanted a party where people dressed in tutus and glitter. They did – even a doctor, who sported a pink tutu and a pink feather boa.
“The reason I’m here is bad, but this place isn’t so terrible,” Angela said.
Angela is about to start her third round of chemotherapy and her father, Bret, said she’s doing much better since the early treatments. She will have a blood test next week to determine whether her treatment is working – or whether it needs to be more aggressive, her father said.
“When she’s feeling good, those days are better,” Bret House said. “But when she’s down, it tears you up.”
Bret and Ann Marie House, Angela’s mother, haven’t been home since the day their daughter was flown to Sacramento. They spent the first month in the Kiwanis Family House and the past month in the Ronald McDonald House at the hospital.
Angela started taking singing lessons last year and said she’d like to try out for the singing competition show “The Voice.” Singing has become therapeutic for her as she battles her leukemia.
“It keeps me happy, it keeps me occupied,” she said.
Her family is grateful for that.
“It was a good Christmas,” Bret House said. “Next year will be better.”
Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at www.sacbee.com/citybeat.