Aaliyah “Grace” Locklear is a beautiful, rambunctious, and joyful four-year-old who loves to swing, slide and build castles with kinetic sand. To know her is to love her, with her outgoing personality and constant smile. Grace’s journey began when she was adopted at four days old and came home from the hospital with a strange birthmark on her stomach. As she grew, so did the mark. Her parents began asking the doctors what could be wrong and were repeatedly told it was just a birthmark and that there was nothing to worry about. Finally, at ten months old and in part to the persistent questioning of her parents, Grace was sent to UNC’s Children’s Hospital for genetic testing. She was then diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis (NF1), a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow in the body on nerve endings. After more testing and consultation, it was determined that her “birthmark” was in fact a tumor, but benign.
Yet, at 22 months Aaliyah’s first optic glioma was identified through an MRI. This form of brain cancer appeared in the form of tumors developing on her optic nerve. At 23 months old, Grace began her first regimen of chemotherapy. Grace has been on chemotherapy over half her life and deals with many struggles daily, however, she radiates love and joy even on her worst days. She loves interacting with the volunteers, other patients and staff at her weekly chemotherapy visits; playing with her dog, Elsa, and cat, Oliver; being tickled by her older brother; and singing and dancing and being the life of the party. She never meets a stranger and reminds all that have the pleasure to know her that each obstacle faced is manageable by placing our faith over our fears.
June 2022 – Grace is now in full remission and recently had her port taken out. Her family is so grateful to the many organizations that helped to support them over the many years Grace was in treatment.