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Ailing girl’s wish comes true

Journey to be famous quickly accomplished

POSTED: February 19, 2014 4:00 a.m.
David Renner Dawson Community News/

Olivia Graham, 5, and best friend Isaiah Hamill, 5, read “My Best Friend Livi,” a book about Graham’s fight with leukemia that was illustrated by Hamill.

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Five-year-old Olivia "Livi" Graham likes to laugh, play and be rambunctious at school just like every little girl her age.

After school, however, she faces a much different schedule. At home, Graham must take chemotherapy pills and settle in for the energy drain that comes with the treatment.

Graham was diagnosed with an acute form of leukemia in May. The disease, if left untreated, is generally fatal in a span of weeks. If treated, though, there's a 94 percent success rate for remission in children.

"Right now, she's in the maintenance phase of treatment," said mother Maggie Graham. "She takes chemo days every day at home. On the weekend, she takes an extra dose of pills she has to take.

"Right now, it's pretty standard. We also go into the clinic every month to get chemo in her port and a spinal tap to get chemo in her spine, as well."

The treatment has not dampened the child's spirits.

"Thursday, Livi came up to me, almost in a joking way, and said ‘Mama, I want to be the most famous kindergartener and I want to know the most famous people than any other kindergartener in the world,'" Graham said. "A friend suggested that I start a Facebook page for her, so I did."

Within days, the page started "blowing up," Graham said.

"I had no expectations going into it. I thought maybe she would get a bunch of likes on Facebook and that would be it," she said. "The next thing I know, we're up to 5,000, then 7,000 and now we're at 40,000 likes."

Graham said her daughter's wish to become famous quickly became a reality, with a number of celebrities reaching out to her.

"We've had several people call Livi," she said. "We've had Mike Wolfe from the ‘American Pickers' call, Brett Keisel with the Pittsburg Steelers, Bopper Minton from ‘The Amazing Race' call, Pixar Studios, Rachel Ray, and Evan Marriott from ‘Joe Millionaire' has liked her page and promoted it on his own."

It's something the family still trying to comprehend.

"At 100 likes, Livi was excited. At 1,000 likes, she understood that number, but once we got above that into the tens of thousands, she doesn't understand the magnitude," Graham said.

"I have a hard time understanding the magnitude of 40,000 people, following your life and your child. It's all so surreal. I have to keep asking myself if this is real."

Now that Livi's wish has come true, Graham said that the family has shifted the focus from their daughter and to a more overall mission.

"We've reached that fame status now, she's global. I think now our mission and reason for this has changed," Graham said. "We've shifted to more of raising awareness for pediatric cancer. Only 4 percent of the money raised for cancer research goes toward pediatric cancer."

Graham said that the family has been working with a cancer research center in Atlanta that has shown their daughter a tremendous amount of support.

"We've gotten involved with a center in Atlanta called the Rally Foundation for Pediatric Cancer Research," she said. "They are just wonderful. They are 96 percent efficient and raise money to find the cure for all types of pediatric cancer."

While the journey has been a difficult one, Graham said that the family has not let the disease get them down.

"It's a hand of cards I would not wish upon anybody. But when we first got the news about Livi, I decided we can make this into a good thing or we can wallow in self-pity," she said.

"We decided to take the high road, make the best of this, and cure this disease that nobody, let alone a child, should ever have to go through."

 

 

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