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Gabri-Ellen takes one step at a time

A very special moment occurred last week when 5-year old Gabri-Ellen Richardson walked across the stage at Cottageville Elementary School to graduate from kindergarten.

In that moment, her mother stared at her daughter and took a deep breath, grateful that she had not lost her daughter to cancer in the year prior.

Gabri-Ellen was diagnosed with cancer in August of 2017. She had a brain tumor.

“She had been having headaches for months and I would take her to the pediatrician and they would tell me it was an ear infection or that she wanted attention. They also told me I just had a clumsy child, because she would fall all of the time,” said mom, Kourtney Sweat. While being interviewed on Tuesday, Kourtney recalled how she first learned that her daughter had cancer. “I finally stopped going to regular doctors,” she said. “My child was sick.”

Kourtney refuses to relent. She took Gabri-Ellen to Summerville Medical Center, where a routine MRI revealed the tumor.

They were immediately taken to MUSC, where Gabri-Ellen underwent an 8-hour surgery.

As of Tuesday, she has been cancer free for nearly 10 months.

“They completely removed the cancer. We just have to relearn how to do everything again.”

Because of where the tumor was, the removal of it has affected her ability to speak, walk, hold up her head or eat on her own.

“For four months after, she couldn’t even talk. But then, she started singing one day,” she said.

But, last week, Gabri-Ellen walked across the stage on her own in her graduation.

“You develop some tough skin going though this so I feel selfish when I cry, especially in front of her. I have my baby and I am blessed. I have not lost her to cancer.”

While Kourtney says she did not cry during the graduation, she did shed tears during the interview with this paper.

“She has come a long, long way,” she said.

Additionally, the family’s other daughter, Serenity, also graduated from second grade on Tuesday.

Now, the family is preparing for a summer of fun and intense therapy for Gabri-Ellen.

“She is making a full recovery,” she said. “This summer she will go to therapy every week to improve before she returns to school in the fall.”

Heather Walters (1494 Posts)