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.”
Consider it done.