For the past three years, StoryCorps’ Legacy program has given people facing serious illness the chance to record interviews with loved ones and caregivers. Recently, StoryCorps expanded the program to include children.
In 2007, Faith Marr was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer on her spine. She was 4 years old. That year she had her first of eight surgeries, replacing her vertebrae with titanium rods. Doctors were uncertain about her chances of survival.
“From the very first surgery when I walked into that ICU, it really, really shocked me,” says her father, Jerris. “You were so swollen up, and you had a lot of tubes connected to you. I didn’t think it was you, and it just was really, really hard to see my baby like that.”
“I couldn’t even sit up it was so painful,” says Faith, now 10.
“That’s right, but then at the same point, there was a lot of good in it because I got to spend so much time with you,” says Jerris.
Faith remembers they got tattoo pens, and her dad would draw on her skin. “From your sternum down to your pelvic bone, you had a pretty good scar, and so we’d make that into the stem of a flower. And then to the left of that is a scar from your feeding tube during chemo,” Jerris says.
“I call it my second bellybutton,” says Faith.
“That’s right,” Jerris says, “and we would turn that one into a butterfly.”
“And you promised on my 18th birthday we would go get a tattoo together,” Faith says.
Jerris asks his daughter what she feels she has learned from cancer.
“I think I learned that you don’t always have to keep like, your tears in, and you just got to believe that you can do this. It’s turned me into a mini-adult,” Faith says. “And my friend, he had brain cancer, and I went up to him and I’m like, ‘I know you’re scared but the doctors told me that I won’t live, too, and you’ve got to believe that you can make it.’ And he just started crying and he hugged me, and his grandma came up and she hugged hard.”
And Faith asks her dad how he thought she handled herself during her cancer fight.
“You’re an amazing person, and it’s going to be exciting for me to watch you continue to grow and develop into a young lady because your maturity has done nothing but inspire me to be a better person,” Jerris says. “And the strength that you demonstrated through so many of your procedures gave me the energy to be strong there for you.”
“Do you still worry about me?”
“Every day, every minute,” her dad replies. “But I’m not worried about this cancer coming back anymore because you’ve kicked its butt.”
“Yeah,” Faith says.
“You’ve beat it.”
Faith’s cancer is now in remission. When she turns 18, Jerris plans to get a tattoo in her honor that says “Keep the Faith.”
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jud Esty-Kendall.