Six-year-old Shelby Jernigan is fascinated with big ships. The ships that have a pool, where games are played all day and pizza can be eaten anytime you want it.
Shelby has a dream of going on a Carnival cruise one day, but right now, she is in the battle of her life – brain cancer.
It’s a cancer the little Odenville girl has been battling the past two years. It is called ependymoma brain cancer. It is a disease in which malignant cancer cells form in the tissues of the brain and spinal cord.
It started when a tumor the size of a half-dollar was discovered at the base of her brain.
Surgery removed the tumor, but it returned and several other tumors have been located. Shelby takes radiation and chemotherapy, but the tumors are not going away.
Although the prognosis is not good, chemotherapy does buy time.
Her mother, Rosalyn Jernigan, said her daughter’s blood count is too low for chemo right now, so they are just waiting for it to build up some.
In the meantime, Shelby had the chance to visit her first grade classroom last week at Margaret Elementary School. It was called Shelby Day. Gold ribbons have been placed along the front of the school as Margaret Elementary recognized September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Teachers and students wore ‘Shelby Strong’ shirts.
Jernigan said it means the world to her to see Shelby at school visiting with her classmates.
“Margaret Elementary has been so good to us,” she said. “She loves school. She was here last year as a kindergarten student, and she misses it so much. Due to the cancer, she is a homebound student now.”
Shelby is the only child of Troy and Rosalyn Jernigan. As for the opportunity for Shelby to enjoy a Carnival cruise, Jernigan said they are looking at taking her on a cruise in March.
Her teacher Lili Kane said it was so good to have Shelby back at school for all of her friends to see her.
Shelby’s best friend at school is Halle Tucker. They met last year while in Tina Palmer’s kindergarten class.
Helping Shelby make her dream come true to go on a Carnival cruise are Ken and Jerri Ludlam, who own Hillside Ranch in Eufaula.
Jernigan said she has known Ken and Jerri most of her life. She and her husband grew up in Eufaula.
Hillside Ranch puts on rodeos that are meant to be fun, teach responsibility and bring families close as they play together. They help families who are facing difficult times.
“They are doing this to make her happy,” Jernigan said. “Shelby wants to go stay on a hotel that floats. Ken and Jerri are helping Shelby live her dream.”
Reach Gary Hanner at firstname.lastname@example.org