Brooklyn Cowsill, a 9-year-old cancer patient in Wichita, decided to give back to other children at her doctor’s office by treating them to lunch.
She raised more than $2,300, which she spent on restaurant gift cards to give to kids who have cancer and their families.
Brooklyn and her mother, Kim Cowsill, came up with the idea because chemotherapy changed Brooklyn’s taste buds.
“We would make her a lunch, bring everything with us, and we’d get there and she’s sick – she doesn’t want to eat it – and she craves something different,” Cowsill said.
We would make her a lunch, bring everything with us, and we’d get there and she’s sick – she doesn’t want to eat it – and she craves something different.
Kim Cowsill, Brooklyn’s mom
She said they would try to plan ahead but often ended up buying food at restaurants near Wesley. Brooklyn received outpatient chemotherapy from David Rosen, a pediatric oncologist at Wesley Medical Arts Tower, 3243 E. Murdock.
“And it gets expensive when you have five days in a row of chemo and you’re going out to lunch every day,” Kim Cowsill said. The gift cards, she added, were something they thought other families could use.
During Brooklyn’s treatment, she became particular about food and went through phases.
Dave Cowsill, Brooklyn’s dad, said at one point she would eat bowls of olives.
“I didn’t care, as long as she was eating,” Kim Cowsill said. “She was so skinny.”
But her No. 1 food before, during and after treatment has always been Taco Bell’s five-layered burrito.
“The girl can eat,” Kim Cowsill said.
Brooklyn also said she couldn’t use silverware during chemotherapy because everything tasted metallic. Even when she used plastic utensils, she said, they tasted like metal.
Metallic tastes are common among chemotherapy patients.
Kim Cowsill said that, in general, chemo patients tend to like salty foods during treatment and things with a lot of flavor, like spicy Chinese food. She said they bought gift cards to reflect that and chose restaurants close to Central and Hillside, near Rosen’s office.
The gift cards include Chipotle, Panera, Spangles, Chick-fil-A, Burger King, McDonald’s, Dillons for Chinese carry-out and Brooklyn’s favorite – Taco Bell.
Kim Cowsill said Brooklyn couldn’t eat sandwiches during treatment, but other families requested sandwich shops, so Brooklyn also bought gift cards for Subway, Mr. Goodcents Deli and Schlotzsky’s. Brooklyn hasn’t used all the money yet. Her doctor’s office will buy the rest of the gift cards for patients.
Brooklyn handed out some of the gift cards for the first time on Tuesday.
J.C. Delamore, a 12-year-old who’s been fighting cancer for 10 years, was in Rosen’s office receiving medicine through an IV to boost his immune system now that he’s finished with chemotherapy. Brooklyn also received the same medication on Tuesday.
When Brooklyn went into J.C.’s room, he chose a gift card for Taco Bell.
J.C. said he loved salty foods during chemotherapy and often craved pizza with Canadian bacon and sauerkraut.
His dad, Scott Delamore, said J.C. would eat “yellow mustard by the spoonful.”
Charlie Futhey, 13, has been receiving cancer treatments for eight years. Charlie was receiving chemotherapy on Tuesday and picked out a gift card to Chick-fil-A.
“I like their chicken sandwiches a lot,” he said.
He said he goes through cravings, too.
One week I’ll like pizza, and the next I’ll like chicken nuggets.
Charlie Futhey, a 13-year-old cancer patient
“One week I’ll like pizza, and the next I’ll like chicken nuggets.”
Brooklyn said she started feeling soreness in her hip and began walking with a limp in December 2014. An X-ray taken at her family doctor’s office showed nothing unusual.
“Mom even asked if it could be cancer,” Brooklyn said.
“I don’t know why I even said that,” Kim Cowsill said. “I remember I whispered it, because I didn’t want her to hear it, but I put it out of my mind and thought, ‘OK, she had done gymnastics.’ ”
They concluded it might be a severe sprain.
“We had no idea,” Kim Cowsill said. “It was so unusual.”
They let it go for awhile, but the discomfort grew to the point that Brooklyn was taking ibuprofen every day and lost weight. That’s when they visited an orthopedic doctor, who discovered a tumor through an MRI in June 2015. Brooklyn was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a cancerous tumor, on her left pelvic bone.
Brooklyn said that when she was first diagnosed, she didn’t know any other children with cancer, which scared her.
“I used to look at those commercials and say, ‘I’m never going to get that,’ and I did. It was sad,” she said.
I used to look at those commercials and say, ‘I’m never going to get that,’ and I did. It was sad.
Brooklyn Cowsill, 9-year-old cancer patient
She started treatment at Rosen’s office right after the diagnosis.
Brooklyn finished chemotherapy almost exactly a year after beginning it. She underwent 17 rounds of chemotherapy and had her pelvic bone removed.
But Brooklyn speaks positively about treatment and loves to talk about the friends she made at Rosen’s office.
“Sometimes she doesn’t want to leave,” said Dave Cowsill, Brooklyn’s dad.
Kim Cowsill said Brooklyn decided she wanted to raise money for cancer patients during September, which is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Brooklyn has special permission to wear hats to school at Vermillion Elementary in Maize, because she lost her hair during treatment. Her hair is now beginning to grow back.
Vermillion sometimes hosts “hat days” at school for students to wear a hat of their choice in exchange for a dollar donation to the school.
Brooklyn decided a hat day well-suited her fundraiser for cancer patients like her, who wear hats after treatment. She and her mother approached the school with the idea.
Kim Cowsill said she originally thought Brooklyn would raise about $200. She raised more than $2,300.
Many of the donations came from Brooklyn’s crowd-sourcing page on youcaring.com, where students, teachers, friends and family members donated additional money for the gift card project. Kim Cowsill also raised money at St. Jude Catholic School in Wichita, where she works. Other local businesses and restaurants donated gift cards and meals.
“Brooklyn has quite a following right now,” Kim Cowsill said about Brooklyn’s Facebook page, called Love for B. “She’s just been such a trouper. Life is still fun for her. That was really important to her last year, to keep being able to do things that she would do.”