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CHICAGO — As the first weeks of the pandemic unfolded, a South Side sixth grader faced a health crisis of her own: a cancer diagnosis.

Two months later, she’s doing something remarkable to help kids facing similar challenges.

For 12-year-old Delaney Brown it all started with a sore throat.

 “It also kind of felt scratchy a little bit and I’d also get a scratchy voice every once in a while,” she said.

Her parents Jason and Brigid Brown took her to the doctor and soon she had a series of blood tests and ultrasounds.

 “When those results came back in, they found out that I had cancer and that I had to have surgery to get my thyroid removed,” Delaney said.

She was diagnosed on March 13. She was scheduled for surgery on March 26, just as the pandemic was changing everything.

Her parents said the news was heartbreaking.

“Between everything going on with COVID and this, it was like getting hit with a wrecking ball,” Jason Brown said. “We were totally blindsided.”

“We were standing on the stairs, and she asked me if she was going to die and asked me how I was going to react,” Brigid Brown said. “And I said, ‘Oh my gosh, we can’t even think about this.’ She said, ‘I need you to be strong and live your best, most fulfilled life for Daddy and Jackson.”

 “Being calm is an easier way to get through things than being nervous,” Delaney said. “So I tried to act calm even though I was scared inside.”

Surgery went better than expected and Delaney is now cancer free.

 “As soon as I ended recovery, all I wanted to do was make other people’s cancer experiences better than mine,” she said.

Unbeknownst to her parents, Delaney started a GoFundMe campaign as her “passion project,” part of a school assignment for a class at Old St. Mary’s School.

She wanted to raise $250 by Memorial Day.  She raised $15,805.

All the money raised will go to making care packages with games, coloring books, and other items to comfort kids in the cancer ward at Lurie Childrens Hospital

 “I did have some of those things, but not everyone will, so I want to make sure those people that don’t will have them,” she said.

While she’s back home, healing and reading well-wishes from classmates, Delaney is  also sharing the secret ingredient for dealing with any of life’s unexpected challenges.

 “While I had cancer, it was really hard. But coming out of it, what I really needed was hope that everything would be okay and to believe that I was going to get through it,” she said.

Anyone interested in donating can visit the GoFunMe page.

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