Clara Lawrence, 13. “A Salt” on Cancer Team. Clara was diagnosed with a rare form of infant leukemia at 4 months old. She loves making chocolate chip pancakes, cookies, muffins, pizza and other things kids like to eat.
Myleigh McDowell, 8. Crush Cancer Team. Myleigh was diagnosed a year ago with Wilm’s Tumor, a rare kidney cancer. An avid fan of the TV show Chopped, she loves to make pancakes, scrambled eggs or anything her mom is cooking. From left, Jack Williams, 4, Clara Lawrence, 13, and Myleigh McDowell, 8, pose for a portrait on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. The three childhood cancer survivors will be participating in the upcoming CHOP! Cancer cook-off. (Photo11: JOSH MORGAN/ Staff) Jack Williams, 4. Blue Flame for Cancer Team. Jack was diagnosed at 2 ½ with high-risk pre-B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He loves stirring ingredients, licking the spoon, being silly, and throwing stuff in the kitchen.
The CHOP! Cancer Culinary Competition is just around the corner and this year the event features three survivors of childhood cancer in addition to the 18 citizen chefs competing to benefit Greenville’s Cancer Survivor’s Park.
Clara Lawrence, Myleigh McDowell and Jack Williams have been named the as Childhood Ambassador Chefs by the Clement’s Kindness Children’s Fund to lend a hand, a spoon, or a secret ingredient to the three teams competing.
CHOP! Cancer is modeled on the Food Network TV show Chopped, which pits four professional chefs against one another in a cook-off.
“Cancer doesn’t discriminate. It hits young and old,” said Kay Roper, executive director of the Cancer Survivors Park Alliance. “We wanted an event that would highlight survivorship in kids too.”
The children were selected to help raise awareness of childhood cancer "because of their love for helping out in the kitchen,” said Sandra Miller, spokeswoman for Clement’s Kindness, which helps Upstate families cope with pediatric cancer and other serious blood disorders and also provided funding for the park’s Children’s Garden. Minute to minute
Buy Photo Clara Lawrence, 13, holds a bowl and whisk as she poses for a portrait on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. Lawrence is one three young chefs that will be participating in the upcoming CHOP! Cancer cook-off. (Photo11: JOSH MORGAN/ Staff) It was a quarter-sized purple bruise that refused to fade that had Maurie Lawrence worried something was wrong with her 3-month-old daughter.
Turns out her instincts were right.
At 4 months old, tiny Clara was diagnosed with mixed lineage leukemia, sending Maurie and Cliff Lawrence into a tailspin.
“Life becomes living minute to minute,” Maurie told The Greenville News . “How do I breathe through this next 60 seconds? How do I get through tonight?”
A month later, baby Clara started chemotherapy, which continued for a year and a half.
“You learn that cancer is in many ways more of an art than a science,” her mom said. “Children have one of the highest cure rates for leukemia. But with Clara’s form, so few have it and there are very low survival rates.”
But Clara, now 13 and a student at Hughes Academy in Greenville, is one of the lucky ones.
While she must still be tested at regular intervals, she is happy, healthy and doing well in school.
“She is beautiful and strong and she is a life force,” her mom says. “She laughs hard, she lives hard. And people are drawn to her.”
The Children’s Garden at the park has played an important role in her being able to cope with her illness. So when she was asked to participate in this year’s CHOP! Cancer Cooking Competition, she jumped at the chance.
“She loves the park. It’s a jewel. And she has a sense of wanting to help,” her mom said. “She’s very excited.” Duncan student ‘strongest person I know’
At just 7 years old, Myleigh McDowell developed a persistent pain in her side.
When it hadn’t disappeared after two months, doctors sent the Abner Creek Academy student for a scan and discovered a massive tumor on her right kidney.
Terrified doesn’t begin to describe how her parents felt when they got the news.
“A year ago, we were getting the worst prognosis in the world,” said her dad, Robert McDowell. “It’s aggressive … and it has only a 34 percent survival rate.” Myleigh McDowell, 8, poses for a portrait on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. McDowell is one three young chefs that will be participating in the upcoming CHOP! Cancer cook-off. (Photo11: JOSH MORGAN/ Staff) That was Feb. 2, 2018. Since then, the Duncan girl underwent surgery to remove the kidney and endured 10 months of chemotherapy and radiation. Through it all, she had the steadfast support of her family, which includes her four brothers and mom Jessica, and their their faith in God.
Earlier this year, Myleigh rang the bell signifying her last treatment and no more cancer, her dad said.
And while she missed the first grade, she’s doing “awesome” now.
“She’s always upbeat, always happy and always has a bright outlook,” McDowell said. “She’s a warrior. She’s our hero.
"She’s the strongest person I know.”
Myleigh loves to watch the TV show Chopped with her whole family, and would love to compete if the Alliance ever launches a junior competition.
“She loves to cook,” her dad said. “And she’s super excited.” Survival was a miracle
Jack Williams, 4, takes a bite out of a cookie during a portrait shoot on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. Williams is one three young chefs that will be participating in the upcoming CHOP! Cancer cook-off. (Photo11: JOSH MORGAN/ Staff) A severe nosebleed that required 11 transfusions was the first sign that something was wrong with 2 ½-year-old Jack Williams.
“He was pale, lethargic and he wouldn’t eat,” his mom, Mimi Williams, said. “He was declining rapidly.”
Blood tests and a bone marrow biopsy in April 2017 revealed that that he was suffering from high risk pre-b cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Mimi and John Williams were stunned.
“His hemoglobin was the lowest the oncologist had ever seen in a child,” his mom said. “That he was surviving was a miracle.”
Chemotherapy was started immediately. And Jack spent 77 days in the hospital, often enduring some terrible side effects of treatment.
Though he’ll be on chemo until July 2020, he’s a happy 4-year-old today.
“When it’s finished, hopefully the leukemia will be gone and won’t come back,” Mimi Williams said. “Leukemia has one of the highest cure rates of all the pediatric cancers. The biggest hurdle we fight at this point is a relapse.”
The Simpsonville family has been involved with Clement’s Kindness events before and decided to do CHOP! Cancer to spread awareness of the fact that kids get cancer too, she said.
Besides, Jack loves being in the kitchen.“He’s doing great now. Technically, he’s in remission. He has a team and is supposed to be up there with them cooking,” she said with a chuckle.“But I don’t know how well that’s going to go with a 4-year-old.” CHOP! Cancer raises funds and awareness CHOP! Cancer raised about $109,000 last year and it hopes to beat that this year, Roper said.This year’s chefs are Sarah Beattie of Southern OM Hot Yoga, Tammy Barber of BarberWind Turbines LLC, Charles Brewer of the Poinsett Club, Nick Carlson of Wilson Associates Real Estate, Madina Cauthen of Pacific Gateway Capital Group, retired children’s chaplain Neil Cochran, Mary Alice Ferguson of Wilson’s On Washington, retiree Chuck Floyd, Dr. Joanna Grabska of Bon Secours St. Francis Health System, Dr. Amanda Hathaway of Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute, Curt Hall of Millennium Private Wealth, Jim Killion of The Cliffs at Keowee Vineyard, Melissa Morrell of Berkshire Hathaway Home Service C. Dan Joyner Realtors, local artist Dorothy Shain, Robert Tiffin of Silvercote, Heather Welch of the Wyche Law Firm, nutritionist Kristen Welch, and Dr. Donald Wiper of Prisma Health Upstate.The professional chef mentors are chefs Alan Scheidhauer and Michael Granata, along with student chefs, of the Greenville Technical College Culinary Institute, and chefs Victor Singleton and Mark Bergstrom of Seasons Café and Catering.The judges are chef Francis Turk of the Cliffs Communities, chief operating officer Bob Munnich of Larkins Restaurants, and iHeart Radio Morning Hosts Bill Ellis and Beth Bradley.The event, which will be emceed by Jane Robelot of WYFF TV 4 and Mary Freeman, a community leader and local actress, will be held Friday, March 8 at 6 p.m. at the Embassy Suites at Verdae Boulevard. To learn more, go to www.chopcancerupstate.com.
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