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Glancer Magazine

OLIVIA'S STORY | Meet the 12-Year Old Who Is Inspiring the Community through Her Battle with Cancer


“When you find something is broken or cracked, you shine a light on it and ask for help to fix it; it takes a village,” Carrie Garcia of Naperville says as her neighbors indulged her beyond her wildest dreams to bring the “City of Light” parade to a very radiant little girl whose heart continues to send out rays of sunshine all day and night, regardless of her ongoing battle with cancer.

Gregory Middle School 7th Grader, Olivia Parker (12) of Naperville was diagnosed in October 2018 with Stage 4 Glioblastoma, a very aggressive form of brain cancer. There is no cure, but Olivia is currently in treatment by an amazing team at Lurie Children’s Hospital. She has had multiple brain surgeries, including a 12-hour surgery to remove about 50% of the tumor. Olivia has done six (6) weeks of daily radiation combined with chemotherapy followed by six (6) cycles of chemotherapy. Unfortunately, her first out of treatment MRI showed growth in the tumor, so participated in two different clinical trials - neither of which worked – so she recently started a new clinical trial that is a device called Optune that she wears on her head. It sends rays into the brain that prevent the cancer cells from splitting; therefore, keeping the tumor from growing.

“We are optimistic about this new treatment, it’s very different from what we have tried before,” her mother, Anna Maria shares.

Optimism is the core of what keeps Olivia going each day.

“I seem to always find something good to think about - even on hospital days or days when I don’t feel good there are still so many great things - like all the great doctors and nurses who take care of me and my social worker who I love,” Olivia shares. “Also, there are always doughnuts!”

Olivia dreams big and had plans this summer to go to Paris until COVID-19 hit, so the entire neighborhood of Wheatland View, along with Cal’s Angels, Neuqua High School’s football team, and many friends and family came together to bring Paris to Olivia.

The street was professionally lit up with a giant Eiffel Tower on display, a horse and carriage, a mime, Disney Princesses, Paris café’s, a magician, singers, and street artists. The city issued a “block party” permit and the event was planned with social distancing and safety in mind.

“It felt amazing. It’s such a special memory,” Olivia says. “It felt as good as going to Paris, France because my friends and family and so many people who love me got to be there with me!”

With the new treatment, Olivia’s average day is spent indoors by herself because the device overheats when she is outside. She can take it off - but only for certain amounts of time so she likes to save that for swimming and special activities.

She felt so blessed to have this special evening surrounded by so many people and will continue to live each day to it’s fullest with horseback riding, drawing, and making slime; as well as volunteering with Cal’s Angels making videos and doing photo shoots to create awareness for pediatric cancer. She also helps to raise money to grant wishes for kids, as well as fund clinical trials at Lurie’s since only 4% of federal funding for cancer research is used for pediatric cancer.

-Kristen Kucharski, Photos by Mike Catuara

You only live once – MAKE IT COUNT! -Olivia Parker


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