A 10-year-old girl from Cundy’s Harbor hopes to finish treatment for leukemia this spring and hear doctors declare her cancer-free for the second time, five years after her original diagnosis.
Doctors diagnosed Adelynn Moody with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, also known as acute lymphocytic leukemia or ALL, in March 2017.
Adelynn had just turned 5 and had been so sick “she could hardly walk,” according to her mother, Bridget Murphy. “She was having severe leg pain and she had a fever.”
At first, Adelynn was sent home with a suspected sinus infection. But after a couple of weeks without improvement, a follow-up appointment led to a blood test and a trip to the emergency room at Maine Medical Center for a possible iron transfusion.
A few hours later, an oncologist informed Bridget and her mother that Adelynn had cancer. A bone-marrow biopsy soon identified it as acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow.
According to the Mayo Clinic, acute lymphoblastic leukemia “is the most common type of cancer in children, and treatments result in a good chance for a cure.”
Adelynn and her mom spent six weeks at Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland while she underwent chemotherapy. Her treatment included blood and platelet transfusions, as well as spinal taps.
“Barbara Bush is amazing,” Bridget said. “These kids are going through so much, but they try to make it as bearable as possible.” At the time, family and friends were able to visit and Adelynn could play with other children.
Celebrity guests included Mickey and Minnie Mouse, along with Slugger the Sea Dog, mascot of Portland’s minor league baseball team. A volunteer helped Adelynn make a doll with a port to show her “how everything was going to be happening to her own body,” Bridget said.
“They do a great job educating the kids — and the family, for that matter,” Bridget added.
After her discharge from the hospital, Adelynn continued outpatient treatment at the Maine Children’s Cancer Program in Scarborough and at home.
Adelynn was able to attend graduation at her Brunswick preschool and start kindergarten. She was able to bowl again — a hobby she had discovered the fall before her diagnosis. In first grade, she picked up field hockey.
The last year of Adelynn’s treatment consisted of monthly “maintenance” appointments. By the end of this period, she was able to join the Harpswell Harriers cross-country team.
At her first race, Bridget was crying at the finish line — proud of her daughter for finishing the race after all she had endured.
In June 2019, Adelynn rang the bell at the Maine Children’s Cancer Program to celebrate being cancer-free. In November, Make-A-Wish sent Bridget, Adelynn and their extended family to Disney World.
But soon afterward, Adelynn was sick again. “From November to March, she just could not get better,” Bridget said.
“Through this whole six months, I knew something wasn’t right,” Bridget said. Adelynn contracted pneumonia and continued to suffer from leg pain, a symptom of leukemia.
After a monthly blood test in March 2020, Adelynn’s oncologist informed Bridget that the leukemia was back. They immediately packed and returned to Barbara Bush.
The same week, COVID-19 arrived in Maine. Bridget called it “the worst week ever.” They rarely left the hospital for the next six months.
Adelynn Moody’s jaw drops as she enters her bedroom with her mother, Bridget Murphy, for the surprise reveal of a bedroom makeover in January. Adelynn, 10, expects to finish treatment for leukemia in the spring. (AMY LEEMAN PHOTOGRAPHY)
The second stay was harder than the first, as doctors cranked up the intensity of Adelynn’s chemotherapy. “She lost her hair within two weeks,” Bridget said, and there were other effects.
“It made your pee turquoise,” Bridget said to Adelynn.
“If I cried, it would be blue,” Adelynn said. “I turned into a Smurf!”
Complications included a blood infection and painful telescoping of the intestine. On top of everything, the visits from family, friends and Slugger were no more — a casualty of the pandemic.
“Nobody could come in and see her,” Bridget said. “It was literally just me.” Bridget, a single mother and hair stylist at a salon in downtown Brunswick, couldn’t work.
But daughter and mother persevered. Adelynn was released from the hospital in September 2020 and returned to outpatient treatment. She is now back in the maintenance phase, which she should finish in early April — despite a bout with COVID-19 that interrupted her appointments.
In spite of everything, Adelynn is “feeling pretty good” right now, Bridget said. “She has her ups and her downs.”
The fourth grader is back at Harpswell Community School in person after a year of remote learning, although she misses a couple days each month for chemo and recovery. Her illness and treatment have disrupted every school year so far, but she is working hard to keep pace.
“She’s done really well,” Bridget said. “I’m really proud of her.”
Adelynn likes math best, she said. Outside of school, she continues to enjoy bowling and field hockey. During an interview at her home in January, she was hanging out with a friend and making colorful jewelry.
What does she look forward to most about life after treatment? “Doing things I can’t do now,” she said. She wants to try gymnastics — forbidden by her doctors because a fall could damage her port.
Throughout Adelynn’s five-year journey, the Harpswell community has provided support and encouragement. Back in 2017, Bridget’s co-workers set up an online fundraiser that brought in more than $10,000. There was an in-person benefit too, with food and raffles.
Bridget, with a group of supporters called Adelynn’s Angels, sells bracelets, magnets and T-shirts. A blood drive in honor of Adelynn has become an annual event.
Most recently, a nonprofit called My Happy Place gave Adelynn’s bedroom a makeover. The organization specializes in bedroom makeovers for sick children, “providing them with a fun, safe, and therapeutic environment where they can thrive and heal,” according to its website.
Rhonda Clark, a broker with Rob Williams Real Estate who lives on Great Island, attended high school with the executive director of the national organization, Lisa Tan. With her husband, a co-worker and a few other volunteers, Clark organized a Harpswell chapter of My Happy Place and raised $3,000 with support from Harpswell’s real estate community.
On the weekend of Jan. 21-23, My Happy Place put Bridget and Adelynn up in a Freeport hotel and went to work. They brought in a new bed and bedding, a new bureau and desk. They repaired a closet door. They painted the room Adelynn’s favorite color, teal. They decorated it with her favorite animals: owls and dogs, like her Boston terrier-French bulldog mix, Oakley.
Bridget and Adelynn returned home around midday Sunday for the surprise reveal. When Adelynn walked into her room, her jaw dropped. “I was very surprised,” she said.
The room is “beautiful” and “perfect for Adelynn,” Bridget said.
“Adelynn’s 10 but she acts like she’s 15,” Bridget said, maybe because of all she has survived in her young life. “She’s a very mature 10-year-old,” Bridget added, and her new room reflects this maturity.
Clark said that the Harpswell affiliate of My Happy Place and My Happy Haven — a sister organization that works with women — wants to recruit more volunteers and continue its work in Harpswell and the surrounding area. It already has a nomination for a second project. For more information, contact Clark at 207-833-5078 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adelynn’s room has become, as the organization intends, a refuge of joy and peace.
“I can’t get her out of there,” Bridget said. “She loves it.”