The sweet life

by Kara Hansen 

LEAWOOD — Everyone’s heard the old adage: “When life hands you lemons, make some lemonade.”

But seldom has someone as young as Carrie Hudson been called upon to heed its advice — or taken it so literally.

For a couple of days this past June, however, the 12-year-old parishioner of Curé of Ars Parish in Leawood, ran her own Alex’s Lemonade Stand as a way to take the lemons she’d been dealt — cancer — and turn them into “lemonade” for others facing their own cancer journeys.

The proceeds from the lemonade stand went directly to pediatric cancer research for treatment and cures.

Carrie was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in September of 2004, at the start of fourth grade. That year, Carrie estimates, she missed about 50 days of school due to her illness and treatment.

The latter involved a grueling regimen that even most adults would have found painful and difficult — a spinal tap every week, constant blood and bone marrow tests, and nine pills every night.

She also had to deal with missing out not just on school time, but on normal kid activities as well. To add insult to injury, she lost her hair not once, but three different times.

But she was never alone. From students and teachers to administrators and parents, the Curé of Ars School community stepped in to help wherever it could.

“The other kids at Curé were really nice and supportive. They made me huge posters and cards, and I had lots of visitors in the hospital,” said Carrie. “The student council even sponsored a hat day to collect donations to the playrooms at the hospital.”

That hat day alone raised over $600.

Additionally, students at Curé would often send e-mails of support to Carrie during computer class.

Laura DeDecker was just one of many of Carrie’s peers who stepped up to offer help and support through Carrie’s cancer journey.

Along with a number of Carrie’s classmates, Laura also donated 13 inches of her hair to Locks of Love in Carrie’s honor.

“I grew out my hair for three years before donating,” she said. “It feels so weird now when I go to brush it, because it’s just gone.”

Carrie was declared cancer free in November of 2006 — 26 months after she had been diagnosed. The family took a trip to celebrate the news.

But it was not long before Carrie wanted an opportunity to put her experience to work helping others.

“As tough as it was for Carrie to endure her treatment for 26 months, she always wanted to help the other kids at the hospital,” said Debi Hudson, Carrie’s mother.

“She would look around the oncology unit during visits — and see kids waiting for bone marrow donors or going through surgeries for tumors — and want to do something for those who had a greater need.”

Carrie decided the best way she could help was through a national organization called Alex’s Lemonade Stand. Each year the organization sponsors National Lemonade Days across the country, where kids sell lemonade and donate the money to pediatric cancer research for treatments and cures.

Carrie helped out at an Alex’s Lemonade Stand last year, but this year she wanted to have her own stand and staff it with students and teachers from Curé of Ars. Although she set $1000 as her team’s goal, with the help of the Curé community, she actually raised $1,703 for cancer research.

It’s been a long, hard road, admitted Carrie’s mother, but she’s proud of her daughter’s commitment and impressed by her newfound maturity.

“I think she’s grown a lot in the past couple of years,” said Laura.

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