Colorful balloons covered the stroller of a 1-year-old warrior from Ohio as she was finally sent home after spending almost a year in the hospital beating cancer – not once, but twice.
Grace Rosian, who has Down syndrome, began her battle at birth. She was born two months early, on Oct. 24, 2016, and was diagnosed with leukemia shortly after.
Her mother, Valerie, began having flashbacks of her own childhood. Her best friend passed away from childhood cancer when she was just 9.
“Burying my childhood best friend, all those horrible memories came back to me,” she told InsideEdition.com. “I just thought, I don’t want my child to go through that, but I just knew we had to go through it.”
So at just 2 days old, and weighing little over four pounds, Grace began chemotherapy sessions at Cleveland Clinic.
Two months later, Valerie was finally able to bring her baby home – only to find out the cancer had returned in August 2017.
She was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The cancer was not only in her cells, but also in her spinal fluid, which is extremely rare. Along with this news, the Rosians found out Grace was deaf in both ears.
“It was like a double whammy of cancer the second time she got it,” Valerie said. “I just felt like, ‘what else?’”
The doctors said the last case that was similar to Grace’s was in the 1990s.
“There isn’t any published literature for two decades since the last time there was a case like that,” Dr. Seth Rotz, pediatric oncologist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s, told InsideEdition.com. “We talked to some other experts in the field ... We dug through the medical literature to find out what people had done in the past.”
For eight months, Grace stayed at Cleveland Clinic where she underwent 10 spinal tap procedures so the chemotherapy could go straight into her spinal fluid.
Valerie and her husband, Josh, slept in a hospital bed alongside their daughter's crib. Their 3-year-old son, Robert, slept on a pull-out chair.
“I have nothing but respect for her and to the family for putting other things aside and concentrating on Grac'es care,” Dr. Rotz said.
Finally, on March 20, the Rosians received the news they’d been longing to hear: They could bring their baby home.
“I want to let everyone know that Grace’s homecoming is tomorrow!!! It’s official!!!” they shared in a post on their Facebook page.
“I felt like a weight was lifted off of my chest,” Valerie said. “When you’re going through something like this, you feel like the wind has been knocked out of you ... It's just painful.”
Dr. Rotz says it was a great feeling to deliver the news.
“It’s extremely gratifying. There's a lot of ups and downs in pediatric oncology and to be able to know that somebody, after such a long journey, is going to come out on the other end of things, it’s the best part of this job,” he said.
On March 21, it was time for Grace to go home. Wearing a pink headband, she was taken out of the hospital in her stroller.
“It still seems so unreal that any of this even happened,” Valerie said. “The doctors and nurses at Cleveland Clinic are phenomenal.”
For the most part, Valerie says Grace always had a smile on her face, even when she was really sick. She said her spirit and her personality were always strong.
Despite the great news, Valerie can’t help but feel guilty about the other families still at the hospital.
“My heart just breaks because I made a lot of friends, other parents who are still fighting,” she said. "I have some guilt, as silly as it may sound, that I have my daughter and so many other ones don’t, but if I were to say to the parents that are still fighting, don’t give up, just keep fighting.”
Now at home, Valerie says Grace is thriving and has started occupational, speech, and physical therapy. She joked that Grace came down with a cold and she couldn’t be happier about it because the doctor said it means her white blood cell count is improving.
“It’s nice to have her home because in between when people aren’t at the house and working with her, we get a lot of cuddling and a lot of laughing,” she said. “She loves to laugh and play with her brother.”
Valerie says they are blessed no matter how bad their day is.
“She was a fighter, she was resilient with everything,” Dr. Rotz said. “We really couldn’t have asked for things to have gone smoother or for her to have been a better patient.”