8-year-old Wichita girl fights cancer with fairy tales

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Friday, July 30, 2021, 10:35 AM CDT

Norah West, 6, hugs her mother, Holly. Nora has been battling cancer for about four years. (KCTV)

Kansas City, Mo. (KCTV) — At just 2 and a half years old, Wichita native Norah West was diagnosed with neuroblastoma.

She has been treated regularly at Children’s Mercy for the past 6 years, but the experience was not very welcoming for a child like Norah.

“When she first came here, she was afraid of everyone,” says Holly West, Norah’s mother. “She would hide under the covers.”

Her timid nature in the hospital led Norah to find solace in stories.

“When I heard how much she loved telling stories, I thought it would be so nice to have a story for her in the playroom,” says Children’s Mercy Child Life Specialist Jenna McCoy. “That’s how we all started.”

Norah West (courtesy of KCTV)

Norah’s mom said they didn’t have a wig for her first performance because it wasn’t planned. Children’s Mercy staff grabbed a floral braided ponytail to attach to Norah’s “Love Your Mellon” hat.

“At first I was just so speechless,” said patient activities coordinator Sydney Shryock. “This girl has so much talent and brings so much joy to so many people.”

From a shy 2-year-old to a budding 8-year-old who fills playrooms full of nurses and healthcare professionals, Norah found a glimmer of light to look forward to with every treatment.

“It can be a very overwhelming and scary place,” McCoy said. “To bring even that little bit of play and fun to each of her hospital stays and make it something that she’s excited about coming to the hospital, I think that’s huge.”

Children’s Mercy staff’s ears prick when they hear her name in the hallways.

“It’s kind of amazing,” McCoy said. “The moment Norah is admitted, everyone says, ‘Okay, when is the princess’ performance?’ It is almost standard care.”

Norah doesn’t always perform alone. Music therapy student Joseph Cooper has been on stage a few times.

“I had absolutely no idea that I would become a prince during my time here at Children’s Mercy,” Cooper said.

Norah acts, sings and dances her way into the hearts of all who care about her.

“Most of the time there really isn’t any dry eye in the room,” Cooper said. “Everyone is crying with happiness to see these performances and to get this joy in this hospital.”

Norah’s mother Holly West burst into tears as she listened to every member of the Children’s Mercy staff speak with the highest regard for Norah, knowing that her daughter is being cared for physically and emotionally.

“It means the world that they take care of her the way they do,” West said.

Norah is currently in remission but receives regular treatments at Children’s Mercy to control the cancer. Her mother said she is “cautiously optimistic” about her recovery.

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