Arden Bucher, of New London, a lover of Disney Princesses, Play Doh, singing, solving puzzles, swimming and coloring, dressed as Cinderella for Halloween 2007, when she was two years old. Just a week and a half after having her picture taken, blonde-haired and smiling in her light blue dress, she was diagnosed with stage IV, high-risk Neuroblastoma, a rare and "highly aggressive cancer of the nervous system," according to her mother, Amy Bucher."They never say 'cure' or 'remission' when it comes to Neuroblastoma," said Amy. "The lucky ones are declared 'N.E.D.,' meaning 'No Evidence of Disease.' This does not mean [the cancer] is gone."
Amy said that relapse rates are extremely high and survival after relapse is very difficult.
Arden went through three surgeries and six rounds of chemotherapy at A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children and two stem-cell transplants and total body irradiation at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Throughout her stay in the hospital, Arden always tried to cheer up the other children.
"One thing she did that really blew me away while we were at the hospital is she always wanted to color pictures or make paintings for the other children who 'weren't feeling very well,'" said Amy. "On one occasion, she insisted we walk around the BMT unit and tape one special colored picture on each patient's door. She always thought of others."
Unfortunately, Arden developed Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome and Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome from an unknown source of infection after her second stem-cell transplant and remained in the hospital. She celebrated her third birthday there in November 2007.
She passed away on Aug.
With stage IV Neuroblastoma, Arden had a 50 percent chance of survival, according to Amy.
"Had she survived, she would have lost her fertility, part of her hearing-needing aides and help at school-as well as some of her permanent teeth, not to mention almost a year from her childhood," said Amy, adding that most children who endure cancer treatment end up with learning and growth issues and are at risk for developing secondary cancers from the toxic treatments they receive that are necessary for survival.
Only about 650 children are diagnosed with Neuroblastoma in the United States each year, according to Amy, and the average age at diagnosis is two years.
On Nov. 12, Arden would have turned four. To celebrate her birthday, Amy and her husband, Rick, will spend part of the day at A.I. DuPont to share some of Arden's unopened gifts, balloons and treats with the children.
"We would also like to share the gift of hope with other children who have been or will be diagnosed with [Neuroblastoma] by holding an online auction via EBay Giving," Amy said. One hundred percent of the proceeds will go to the Children's Neuroblastoma Cancer Foundation.
The CNCF provides support and information for families affected by the disease, and it helps to raise money for research.
Up for auction is an autographed Philadelphia Eagles T-shirt, Boston Red Sox baseballs and jersey signed by Kevin Youkilis, a football signed by Ben Roethlisberger and other Pittsburgh Steelers players, a Tiffany pendant and a GPS system.
If people search "Arden Nation" and "CNCF" on the EBay Giving Web site (www.ebaygivingworks.com) on Nov. 12, they'll find the items up for bid, said Amy.
Arden's supporters have already raised more than $16,000 towards Cure Search, the nation's largest pediatric cancer network, through the Greater Wilmington Area Walk for Childhood Cancer, according to Amy. The Walk took place on Oct. 18 in Wilmington, Del., and at least three other local families affected by childhood cancer took part in organizing the event and creating teams of walkers.
But despite all the donations, doctors are still far from finding a cure for all types of childhood cancer, and research requires funding.
Amy created a Web page on Caringbridge.org, a Web site that unites families affected by serious illness and allows them to support each other through personalized Web pages, shortly after Arden was diagnosed. On it, she said, "If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an entire nation to raise a child with cancer."
"Arden was an exceptionally caring and outgoing pre-schooler," said Amy. "She had a dynamic personality. She would enter a room, go to the center, throw out her arms and loudly announce, 'Hi, everybody!' She gave the biggest and best hugs to everyone."
Amy hopes that the efforts of her daughter's donors to raise money and awareness of such a deadly childhood disease will reach more people who are willing to help in any way they can.
"We are committed to transferring our hope for Arden to other children fighting Neuroblastoma and all of these horrible childhood cancers," she said.
For more information about Neuroblastoma, visit www.nbhope.org. To make a donation to the Children's Neuroblastoma Cancer Foundation through EBay Giving, visit www.ebaygivingworks.com and search "Arden Nation" or "CNCF" on Nov. 12. For more information about CureSearch, visit www.curesearch.org.
Courtesy photos "Arden Nation," the team supporting Arden's memory, at the Greater Wilmington Area Walk for Childhood Cancer on Oct. 18.
Arden Bucher on her Make A Wish Foundation trip to Disney World in April.