In many ways, Nevaeh Denine is a normal little girl: she likes being with her dog, Skipper, and drawing pictures in her bedroom.
“Feeling good, actually,” Nevaeh told Global News, during a visit last month to the house she shares with her mother, in the suburban community of Goulds, near St. John’s, NL.
“I’ve been feeling better than I have been feeling over the week.”
Her mother, Holly, says Nevaeh has lived much of her life under a dark shadow.
“She’s fighting cancer four years now. And she’s almost nine,” she said.
Nevaeh has neuroblastoma, a form of cancer that develops in nerve tissue.
After enduring three rounds of intense medical treatment, she has learned language no child should ever need to know.
“I just did radiation, and then I went back-to-back chemo and radiation, and so, it got me kind of screwed up, and on my butt.” Nevaeh said.
She ends the sentence with a laugh, an expression that provides insight into her character, and her ability to find something to smile about.
Facing an uncertain future, Nevaeh has been told by doctors to live life to the fullest but those closest to her say she has taught them how to live.
“You forgive a lot easier, and you look at life in a different perspective,” said her mother.
“And it just makes you a more humble and a better person. And, I owe that to her.”
Even more remarkable is how she takes action, unselfishly.
“I wanted to help other boys and girls like me with pediatric cancer go through treatment,” Nevaeh said.
Combined with her own whimsical wish for the world’s largest lemonade stand, the idea gave rise to something special for the summer. They call it Nevaeh’s Lemonade Stand. The annual event features live music, dancing, and bouncy castles.
Stephanie O’Brien, one of a growing number of volunteers who help co-ordinate the event, says they were shocked at the reaction.
“We thought a couple hundred people would show up. The next thing we knew, it’s like 6,000 people and the lineup is going down the road,” she said.
Over four years, Nevaeh’s Lemonade Stand has raised more than $160,000 for 26 families living with pediatric cancer in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“It really blows my mind how many people asked if they can help out and have some part in the lemonade stand,” said Nevaeh.
There are acts of kindness and compassion, large and small: from someone anonymously decorating her radiation mask, to a man leaving his Volkswagen Beetle to Nevaeh, after losing his battle with cancer.
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Her inspirational attitude requires little explanation.
“Just the way I feel when I wake up, I guess,” she said with a smile.
A girl described as eight going on 30 even has advice for others facing a similar struggle.
“Stay strong. And remember, when there’s something bad, there’s always a good side of it,” she said.
Her annual event is scheduled for July 28, the day after her ninth birthday.