National News

After long cancer battle, Henderson Co. girl rides fire truck to first day of school

Posted August 28, 2017 8:39 p.m. EDT

— A girl who's spent nearly two years fighting cancer got an unusual ride to Dana Elementary on the first day of school. Six-year-old Selah Grace Henderson is cancer free and ready to for a taste of normalcy.

"Every time, I think about, wow, she's growing up," Selah Grace's mom, Michelle Henderson, said.

Almost every rite of passage is bittersweet, and the first day of school was no exception.

The approaching milestone had made Selah Grace toss and turn.

"We couldn't get her to go to sleep last night," Michelle said early Monday morning while braiding her daughter's hair in preparation for the big day -- a day she once feared would never come.

"Dana Elementary Wildcats!" SelahGrace declared with pride.

"This one you can hold like this," she said, holding up a hermit crab. "But the other one you can't because it'll pinch the fire out of you!"

"Her personality has never wavered," Michelle said. "Her tenacity, her spunk, and her sass has always been there."

All that, plus the faith that's given the entire family hope for a miracle.

"And Father we pray that you'll be with Selah and calm all of our nerves," Michelle said in a prayer before school. "I pray this will be such a good blessing that they'll remember this forever."

Selah's now strong enough to face everyday concerns.

"What are you scared of?" Michelle asked.

"How people are gonna be toward me," Selah responded.

"Oh my goodness, they already love you!" her mother said.

"And you have your peanut butter sandwich and your Slim Jims," Michelle said of the lunch packed in a bag sporting a big "S."

Selah has everything she needs get her through unchartered territory. She jumped in the family vehicle along with her dad Brandon, who has long dreamed of this simple morning routine, especially after Selah Grace was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma cancer.

She's had tumors removed from her lung and adrenal gland. Since 2015, she's been through five rounds of chemo.

"After the long, two-year battle with cancer, you know, she finally gets to go to school and be normal," Brandon said.

After so much struggle, this day of firsts lead to another first.

"Does that say Dana fire truck?" Selah asked, walking toward the Dana Fire & Rescue headquarters, where Chief Jimmy Womack had Engine 19 ready to go.

"Just wanted to give her an opportunity to ride in a fire truck on her first day," said Womack, who's followed the story on Selah Grace's Journey Facebook page.

"Well, I'm excited!" Selah said, ready to go to school.

"Turn the sound on!" she told the chief, referring to the siren.

That short ride drove home just how far they've come as a family.

"Once he turned the siren on, the reality started hitting me and emotions," Michelle said. "Seeing her sit there like a big girl."

Selah arrived at Dana with confidence.

"A new kindergarten girl?" a teacher wondered.

"I'm first grade!" Selah said.

But soon, the weight of the moment got to everyone who witnessed the heart-wrenching, 32-second hug that followed.

"You are such a big girl!" Michelle said, patting her daughter on the back.

Their embrace was just long enough to give Selah second thoughts. Then, Michelle's maternal instincts made her day.

"You're gonna do great!" Michelle said. "You're gonna have a great day. I love you."

A fist bump accentuated the pep talk that left mom and daughter in tears.

"She's like a butterfly, and now she gets to fly," Michelle, with tears in her eyes, said in a trembling voice. "And so many kids with cancer don't get this opportunity."

After that fist bump, Selah Grace spread her wings. It was a new beginning that, in some ways, was beyond bittersweet.