By Alex Jones
THIS BRAVE seven-year-old was proud of her FIRST PIMPLE until it turned out to be CANCER – but she hasn’t let it stop her raising THOUSANDS for others like her.
In summer 2019, Lynden Smith (7) from Rancho Mission Viejo, California, USA, excitedly ran into her parents’, stay at home mum, Amanda (33) and director, Dan (50), bedroom to show off her ‘first pimple’ on her lower back.
A week later the pimple had changed shape and colour so Amanda and Dan took their little girl to the doctor who gave them medication for an ‘infected hair follicle’. Two days later, Lynden developed major swelling in her right groin. This time the doctors took samples and sent them for tests.
In late July, Lynden was told she had a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She had cancerous tumours in her chest and groin and was required to undergo six intensive phases of chemotherapy and months of gruelling hospital appointments.
Instead of feeling scared, Lynden drew a deep breath after receiving her diagnosis before turning to her mum and asking if she could donate a few dollars to the children’s cancer charity box in her local McDonalds on the way home.
The heroic little girl’s maturity and bravery continued to stun her family, friends, and community as she underwent her brutal treatment for her stage three cancer. When faced with a low point, Lynden poured herself into a creative activity to take her mind off her troubles.
She started making bracelets which she called ‘Lynden’s Lotuses’. Amanda encouraged her daughter’s arts and crafts and even began selling the bracelets with all proceeds to be sent to the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation, a non-profit organisation that invests in cutting-edge childhood cancer research.
Over the last six months, Lynden’s Lotuses have raised an astonishing £45,000 ($58,000) for severely sick children. The seven-year-old’s positive outlook and sweet nature had made her a role model for sick youngsters across the USA and the world, who follow her on her popular Instagram and Facebook pages.
Even better news came through for the Smith family a few weeks ago when Lynden was given the all clear and told that her tumours had disappeared.
“In the beginning of June last year, Lynden came running into my bedroom one night while her dad was tucking her in, turned around, lifted her shirt and said, ‘Look mum, my first pimple’,” said Amanda.
“She had what appeared to be a large white head on the lower right side of her back. Over the next week or so the ‘pimple’ didn’t go away. She had picked at it herself a bit, but it was changing in appearance from a pimple to something much more concerning.
“After about a week I took her in to a doctor to have it looked at. It wasn’t our normal paediatrician. He suspected it to be an infected hair follicle and gave us topical and oral antibiotics and told us if it got worse over the weekend to go into Urgent Care.
“By Friday night it wasn’t getting better and when she was taking a bath that night, we noticed major swelling in her right groin. We pushed our doctor and eventually had some tests taken but we were told whatever it was would almost certainly be benign. I was told to wait for a call.
“I was with the kids at a trampoline park when I got the phone call. I actually missed it and it went to voicemail. It was our doctor telling us to get in touch as soon as possible and to let us know that she’d booked us in with an oncologist. My heart dropped. She had cancer.
“There is no other reason she would refer a healthy seven-year-old girl to an oncologist. It took everything inside me not to completely lose it in the middle of the park. I was shaking, I was crying and I text Dan ‘call me now’.
“The doctor called me back about an hour later and gave me the news. Lynden did in fact have cancer. The lesion they removed wasn’t benign but was in fact a cancerous tumour.
“Our whole world changed in that moment. Our daughter has cancer. How do you wrap your brain around that? It is something that happens to other people’s kids but not yours. Definitely not mine. We assumed it would only be in her skin and that it hadn’t spread and we hoped for the best.”
When the full diagnosis came, it was brutal – just one step below stage four cancer which is rarely curable.
“We were informed that she did in fact have Anaplastic large-cell lymphoma (ALCL) – a rare form of blood cancer – but it was systemic, meaning it had moved to other places in her body. They found two tumours in her upper chest near her lungs,” said Amanda.
“It was not stage four because it has not yet entered her bones or central nervous system. I could hardly breathe. I didn’t cry. It all sounded so formal and matter of fact and most of it I didn’t even understand. There were no emotions, except shock, until Dan asked if she would lose her hair.
“Yes. She would lose her hair. Just over a year ago, Lynden cut off twelve inches of her hair and donated it to children who had lost their hair with cancer. And now she would be that child.
“Then she went over the treatment plan. It was an aggressive chemotherapy that she would need to be inpatient for each cycle. The treatment would consist of six -five-day day cycles with about two to three weeks in between each cycle.
“I wanted it all to be a big misunderstanding – while other kids enjoyed the summer, Lynden was sat in hospitals, getting poked with needles over and over again.
“One of the first things she asked me when she found out she had cancer was if I’d put money in the box at McDonald’s for other kids with cancer.
“In her moment of finding out she had this horrible disease she immediately wanted to help others suffering from the same thing. As a mum, I couldn’t be more proud of her. The idea of Lynden’s Lotus bracelets came together through both of us.
“We thought maybe we’ll sell twenty-six to fifty bracelets to family members at first. We both knew we wanted to help other kids like Lynden who were going through horrible cancer treatments. Our mission is to raise as much awareness and funds as we possibly can for paediatric cancer research.
“We don’t want other children to have to go through what she, and so many other kids are being put through to try to save their lives. Our hope one day is that we will look back and be appalled that this was our only option – That putting these children through horrible chemo treatments was the only way to give them a chance at life.
“Each bracelet is unique, they all have a Lava Beads, and each one has a Lotus charm attached to it. The Lava stone is a grounding stone that represents stability, strength, and courage. Lotus charm represents life, beauty, and victory. A Lotus flower grows and emerges from dirty, muddy waters to blossom into a pristine, beautiful flower; it will always rise above the darkness.
“I didn’t care if we raised £77 ($100) or £77,000 ($100,000) – which I never even had a dream of raising that much, and now I realistically do – and it would all go to PCRF so every little bit helps.”
However, even though the vast majority of Lynden’s medical treatments are hopefully behind her and she has raised tens of thousands of pounds for cancer charities, the seven-year-old is now having to face an entirely new obstacle – childhood bullying.
Despite growing up a ‘girly girl’, brave Lynden is currently sporting short hair as it grows back after she lost it during chemo but after returning to school, she was teased for looking like a boy.
“Recently a boy in another class made fun of Lynden,” said Amanda.
“She has always been a girly girl. She loves getting her hair done, fingernails painted, she wore tutus over all of her clothes, including pjs her entire third and fourth year of life. Being told she looks like a boy wasn’t something I ever thought we’d have to deal with. But after PE a boy came up to her and asked her if she was a boy or a girl. She said, ‘I’m a girl’. And he told her she ‘looks like a boy’ and then went over and told his friends that ‘she was girl but that she looks like a boy’.
“Lynden doesn’t know the boy’s name, so we haven’t contacted the school about it yet but this one is hard. It’s hard because it’s something she has no control over. It’s hard because she’s become so confident with her bald head and returning hair. She loves that her hair is coming back. So to be made fun of for it hurts. It’s hard.
“Don’t we just wish sometimes we could wrap them up and keep them safe forever?”
For Lynden, her cancer story has made her stronger than her mother ever thought possible. She now wants to be an oncologist when she grows up.
For more information on Lynden’s story, please visit www.lyndenslotus.com/