You might say Anna Boyd of McComb is a quintessential 12-year-old country girl.
“She loves the outdoors, she loves soccer, she loves her friends — just a good kid,” said her dad, Mervin Boyd.
“No absences, good grades,” added her mother, Elly.
On June 8 during a family vacation at Destin, Fla., Anna was roughhousing with her cousins in an elevator when she bumped her left knee.
She told her parents it hurt. They didn’t think much about it — maybe a deep bruise — nothing out of the ordinary for an energetic outdoors girl.
But the pain didn’t go away. Two weeks later Anna was still hurting.
“Nurses don’t generally run their kids to the doctor right away,” said Elly, a hospice nurse. “She had to have shots for school anyway,” so they had a doctor check it out. He thought the same thing: a deep bruise.
As the summer progressed, Anna went to visit her cousins.
“They said she pretty much asked for something for pain every day,” Elly said.
Further tests were inconclusive, so Anna started soccer practice. She kept the knee wrapped, and “I told the soccer coach, ‘Work her kind of hard,’ ” Elly said, hoping exercise would work the kinks out. “After about a week of soccer practice she couldn’t bear weight.”
A nurse practitioner friend arranged an MRI.
“Two days after the MRI, they got (the friend) out of surgery when they were reading the tests. They wanted to know where this kid was,” Elly said.
“I was at work. Mervin was at work,” recalled Elly, who works for St. Luke Home Health and Hospice, while Mervin owns Boyd Electrical.
The friend called Mervin, who was shocked to learn there was a tumor just above the knee.
“I’m thinking the whole time bruises,” he said. “Cancer was the last thing on my mind.”
He called Elly with the news.
“When I spoke, I was crying,” Mervin said. “I’m a man of few tears.”
They were cautious in informing Anna.
“We didn’t tell her it was cancer. We told her something showed up,” Mervin said.
They went to see a tumor specialist at University of Mississippi Medical Center. Just seeing other patients there was something of a shock.
“Those people look very sick and you walk in with your 12-year-old daughter,” Elly said.
Tests revealed Stage 2-B osteosarcoma cancer.
“As soon as the doctor walked in, the exact words, ‘You’ve got cancer. Hopefully we’ll do a knee replacement and not an amputation,’” Mervin said.
Anna was dumbfounded.
“I was like, ‘I could lose my knee, I could lose my leg.’ I was scared,” she said.
Fortunately, the cancer had not spread.
An oncologist lined up a “map” of treatment that includes chemotherapy, knee replacement surgery in November, then more chemo — nine months total if all goes well.
Anna has already been undergoing chemo.
“I was sick for a couple of days and had sores in my mouth,” she said.
“She lost eight pounds after her first treatment,” Elly said.
McComb pharmacist Keith Guy compounded anti-nausea ointment that can be applied to the wrist, which helped tremendously when Anna was too sick to hold anything down.
Anna has been having her ups and downs, like an attack of neutropenic fever when her temperature shot to 103 and her white blood count dropped to nothing. She’s been alternating time at her home west of McComb and Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson.
Blair Batson provides teachers so kids can keep up with their studies, and North Pike Junior High School sends homebound teachers as well.
“The goal is for her to move on to the eighth grade,” Elly said.
Sheri Book of Mississippi Blood Services found out about Anna and arranged blood drives. When people donate blood in Anna’s name, she gets points.
“The goal is to have enough points so she will never be charged,” Elly said.
South McComb Baptist Church, where the family attends, started a T-shirt fundraiser among other events (call the church at 601-684-3369 for T-shirts). Landon Moore organized a raffle for a side of beef. Patrick Campbell arranged chicken dinner plates and a gun raffle. Chase Reynolds raffled a bowfishing trip.
Donna and Junior McCue gave Anna a toy Australian shepherd named Remo, for remission. A group from an Apostolic church came and prayed for her. Her older sister Jordan, 22, is a major source of support despite being recently married.
The list goes on.
The Boyds are used to helping others, not being the object of assistance.
“That’s just very humbling to be on the other end of it because you know how hard people work,” Elly said.
“It makes us feel like we’re not going through this alone,” Mervin said. “We’re just humbled at the support and love that people have showed us. We’re just overwhelmed with all the love that’s there.”
Even Elly’s hospice patients, who have problems of their own, want to know about Anna.
“My patients are concerned about me and my family, which is an anomaly,” Elly said. “My patients always want to know how she’s doing.”
Anna is not one to complain and claims she feels good.
“I’ve been a little bored, but I get school work,” she said one recent afternoon at her home, lying on the sofa with Remo nestled beside her.
The whole family is still in a state of shock — from the knee bump on June 8 to the diagnosis on Aug. 9, which was Elly’s birthday.
“She went from turning flips and doing cartwheels,” Elly said.
The family is praying for a miracle, but Elly and Mervin think the elevator incident may have been a miracle itself since it revealed the cancer.
“The miracle was it was contained and hadn’t spread anywhere,” Mervin said.
“If the miracle was hitting her knee in the elevator, we’ll take it,” Elly said.
In the meantime, their faith sustains them.
“A lot of time people don’t find God until they hit rock bottom. I’m glad we found God before we hit rock bottom,” Elly said. “I can’t imagine going through this without Him, without being a believer, without believing in miracles, without a church family, without people who believe the same way we do.”
Anna was on the McComb Recreation Department soccer team and planned to play for North Pike.
“(Coach) Tressa Terrell came by and said she’ll maintain her position on the team,” Elly said. “So when she can go back, she’ll go back.”