Graceville

The family hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in months. They live in the Birmingham hospital. They eat whatever they can get out of vending machines.

Birmingham, Alabama—a hospital room. A steady beeping noise. The fluid bag doles out one drop at a time. Fluorescent lights. The god-awful smell of disinfectant.

Four-year-old Paisley Corbitt is a long way from her home in Graceville. She’s fast asleep. When her mother walks in, she doesn’t wake her.

Paisley is worn thin. She’s been through hell. Sleep is precious.

Paisely is a towhead with the face of a cherub. She has slept in this bed for too many nights—off and on. This small-town girl would rather be fishing for bream, running in the woods barefoot, or watching TV.

Anything but this.

In January, she got diagnosed with neuroblastoma. If you don’t know what that is, think: the worst cancer imaginable. Then triple it. Then, multiply it by sheer horror. Carry the two. Divide by your worst nightmare.

Her treatment clipboard reads like the unabridged Japanese Dictionary. Five rounds of chemo, invasive surgery, more high-dose chemo, stem-cell transplant, radiation, immunotherapy.

Like I said. Hell.

The family hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in months. They live in the Birmingham hospital. They eat whatever they can get out of vending machines.

“It’s been hard,” says her mother. “Even harder with two kids. Her brother doesn’t realize what’s happening, he just wants her better so she can play again.”

That makes two of us.

Paisley is weak. She’s lost weight. Her skin is pale. Her hair is falling out. She wears a mask. It is a long, woeful road ahead. A fight. But she is not alone. And that’s why I’m writing this.

“Our community has overwhelmed us,” says her mother. “Graceville has given so much support, food, and love… People have even thrown fundraisers.”

There’s a local flyer. It reads: “Team Paisley Raffle.” On the front is the photo of a smiling four-year-old with white-blonde hair. Five dollars per ticket. Win a Yeti cooler. I understand they sold a shipload of tickets.

This is Graceville, where folks support their own. Just like Jackson County, Holmes County, Coffee County, and Geneva County. These rural places shine during hellish moments.

They’ve been delivering suppers for months now—and they’ll keep doing this until the Second Coming. Because this is what folks do. And that’s only scratching the surface.

I haven’t even mentioned the Disney princesses.

“Paisley LOVES Disney,” her mother says. “We’ve had get-well videos come from all her favorite princesses. Belle, Snow White, Rapunzel… Soon as Paisley’s better, the first place we’re going is Disney World.”

Well, I’m no Disney character, but just the same, I ask if there’s anything I can do. It’s a paltry thing to ask, but I mean it.

“Prayer,” she answers. “I want people to know her story. The more who know about her, the more who might say a prayer for my little girl.”

Yes, ma’am.

Consider it done.

33 comments

  1. Sandra Marrar - March 19, 2017 10:15 am

    Oh, my heart is full for this precious child and her family. Lord knows no child should suffer like this. My prayers go out for healing and strength. Thank you for letting us know about little Paisley. God bless.

    Reply
  2. David Bonnell - March 19, 2017 12:38 pm

    Prayers go out without question. Is there an address to send the family something?

    Reply
    • Kayla - May 20, 2017 6:41 pm

      They have a Facebook page called Prayers for Paisley C.
      You can find all the information and updates there.

      Reply
  3. Judy - March 19, 2017 1:00 pm

    The never answered question of “why”. Why does this happen to kids? The only thing we can do is pray.

    Reply
  4. Sam Seetin - March 19, 2017 1:39 pm

    Genius of Thomas Wolf reincarnate…

    Reply
  5. Sam Seetin - March 19, 2017 1:41 pm

    Reincarnate genius of Thomas Wolf

    Reply
  6. Sam Hunneman - March 19, 2017 1:42 pm

    God bless Paisley. Amen

    David Bonnell, this link will get you all sorts of contacts: http://www.jcfloridan.com/news/local/article_cbdf20f6-e82b-11e6-943d-9fd16a31cd65.html

    Reply
  7. Mary Ann Stiles - March 19, 2017 2:12 pm

    Praying for Paisley.

    Reply
  8. Tami - March 19, 2017 4:58 pm

    Today you reminded me of how connected we are and how small our world really is. I pray for Paisley daily. I read your blog daily. I know neither of you personally. Yet my heart is moved by you both.

    #prayersforpaisley

    Reply
  9. Sandy Gallagher - March 19, 2017 5:09 pm

    Prayers for Paisley ‘ s recovery.

    Reply
  10. Jeannie - March 19, 2017 5:41 pm

    I will continuously pray for this precious child for comfort and healing. I will pray that the family has the strength and support they need to go through this. I will pray that the doctor’s make the right choices and select the right treatments. I will pray that those caregivers in the hospital are there with her and her family staying on top of things to make it easier to be in such a place for so long. Mostly I pray that Paisly has a wonderful time in Disney World!!! God Bless this family and you for sharing this story about the goodness of people

    Reply
  11. Jeannie - March 19, 2017 5:47 pm

    Thank you for the connection to make a donation. Mine is made and I encourage everyone who needs a little lift of how many wonderful people there actually are in this world to read the article. Thanks again

    Reply
  12. Pam Patterson - March 19, 2017 6:24 pm

    Thank you for writing this. Here in Stephenville, TX our town has its own little boy, Luke Nelson, who has gotten to “no evidence” of neuroblastoma recently. Prayers work and support is greatly needed for families fighting this disease. KEEP PRAYING for Paisley and her family.

    Reply
  13. HRC - March 19, 2017 6:28 pm

    My cup runneth over❤

    Reply
  14. Suzanne Wright - March 19, 2017 8:42 pm

    Prayers up for Paisley and prayer of thanks up for men like you!

    Reply
  15. Angela Conklin - March 19, 2017 10:26 pm

    A dear sweet girl I know who is now in her twenties, also experienced this nightmare as a young girl. Her mane is Leah. If they would like encouragement from someone who has lived Neuroblastoma and is flourishing, you are welcome to email me. Praying. Jesus be near.

    Reply
  16. Sara Shepherd - March 19, 2017 11:49 pm

    Have just tarted reading your column or blog. It is so good. Touches the heart and shows the love and real humanity of people.

    Reply
  17. Karen Bethea - March 19, 2017 11:58 pm

    I sat in a hospital room at UAB after my husband had surgery for a rare cancer. The room next to him held a young man from Dothan who had a brain tumor of explosive magnitude and everyone there knew he was dying…except me. Watching my husband awaken after a 6 hour surgery that rerouted his guts had me mesmerized…and finally I realized the hallway was filled with people from South Alabama and North Florida…he had kin in Jackson County that had made the trip up to be part of the family unit. I finally snapped out of my daze after I saw folks sitting in the hallway – quiet, crying, hugging one another, praying….and then I knew. All I could do was give them every chair or stool in the hospital room…I had no problem “sitting” on the toilet and eating my supper from the cafeteria….as long as they were comfortable…

    Reply
  18. Karen C Dees - March 20, 2017 12:05 am

    Consider it done !

    Reply
  19. Tara - March 20, 2017 1:24 am

    Consider it done. Sending prayers and white light

    Reply
  20. Sandra Lee Van Dam - March 20, 2017 1:26 am

    Praying for Paisely .

    Reply
  21. Michael Bishop - March 20, 2017 12:06 pm

    Prayers for Paisley Corbett of Graceville and for Mighty Ike of Poteet, Texas, and for all the other innocent tots so horribly afflicted. Thanks for telling their stories, and the stories of their steadfastly supportive communities.

    Reply
  22. Susie Munz - March 20, 2017 6:25 pm

    Prayers in progress.

    Reply
  23. Lisa - May 20, 2017 12:40 pm

    Praying for Paisley and thanking God for every small town USA.

    Reply
  24. June Roulaine Phillips - May 20, 2017 12:54 pm

    As one who has slept countless nights at a hospital in Birmingham.. my heart goes out for this and all families going through this journey called Cancer with their child.
    My son Luke has a brain tumor the most aggressive. He has shown more courage and determination than anyone I have ever seen. I’m so proud of him. He is my light.

    Reply
  25. Phil Blackwell - May 20, 2017 1:00 pm

    I’ve been praying for this little girl for months now based on a photo someone sent me. Thank you, Sean, for posting her story. I’ll pray even harder…

    Reply
  26. Gloria - May 20, 2017 1:10 pm

    Sean, you capture the essence of small rural counties where everyone knows everybody and sincerely care, provide and pray for each other. Our mother’s people were from Geneva and Holmes counties. They were raised that way and raised us up on the same values. Will be praying for this precious child and family.

    Reply
  27. Peggy Schmidt - May 20, 2017 1:42 pm

    Has this family applied for housing at the Ronald McDonald House in Birmingham? https://www.rmhca.org/family-resources/your-stay-at-rmhca/

    Reply
  28. Jerry Denney - May 20, 2017 2:51 pm

    Yes, pray for Paisley, pray hard. When you are done, do it again, for all the Paisleys out there, there are too many. Then pray for the doctors and researchers.
    I will.

    Reply
  29. Hilda Atkins Moore - May 20, 2017 3:06 pm

    After reading this so sad story of a preciously loved little girl’s illness and ongoing treatment, I am filled with compassion and a need to pray for her and her family and friends.
    You see, I know the tearing heartache pertaining to your children and their future, as I, too, experienced something similar, although it was from an accident on one and an illness on the other………

    Reply
  30. pat - May 20, 2017 8:54 pm

    shared and asking all my f/b ‘friends’ to pray today for Paisley. and for you Sean who brings all the things we NEED to know about in life to us with your writing.

    Reply
  31. Richard Maloy - May 20, 2017 10:23 pm

    Prayers from a cancer survivor (I’ve got a pretty good relationship with some angels. I will ask the Almighty to assign them to her team).

    Being in Birmingham, if there’s anything their family needs help with, I’ll be glad to work to make it hsppen.

    Reply
  32. Polly Haines - May 22, 2017 1:36 am

    Thank you, Sean!

    Reply

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