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This Childhood Cancer Patient Is One Tough Princess

Sep 25, 2020

Read Time: 3 minutes

Holly Coxson holding sign that says "Hey Cancer, You Lose"

Holly Coxson used to lay in bed, gaze fixed on her liquid hour glass. As she watched drip after drip, she pictured chemotherapy entering her body, fighting off the cancer cells. Holly was six years old.

“She would look at that so intensely,” recalls Megan Coxson, Holly’s mom. “And when we went in for her tests, the doctors were surprised. They told us there was very little cancer left—they had been expecting to see more.”

Holly was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a rare cancer of the soft tissue and bones, after her left shoulder blade started hurting. She first felt the symptoms on Halloween of 2018, and as the pain worsened, the family’s search for the cause intensified.

“When a lump showed up on her left shoulder, my heart sank,” says Megan. Holly, who is one of five Coxson children, loves trampolines, princesses, and other kid stuff—but she always stood out.

Holly Coxson with a butterfly sitting on her finger

“I knew from the moment she was born that she was different,” her mother says. “She just understood things so well. At first I tried to protect her from her diagnosis by not giving her all the information. I wanted to keep her from being afraid. But I soon realized that she understood everything that was going on.”

Megan recalls the moment her daughter turned to her and asked, “Mom, am I going to die?” Their lives had gone from bike rides and dog walks to doctor’s appointments. “I said, ‘Yes, Holly, you could die from this.’ And she said, ‘I don’t want to die. Let’s do everything we can.’”

Holly’s treatment involved 39 radiation treatments at Huntsman Cancer Institute and 14 rounds of chemotherapy at Primary Children’s Hospital. All the while, Holly found ways to feel strong. She became an expert hand washer in order to help her immune system. She learned to take care of her own port. She weighed in on decisions about her treatment options.

Holly Coxson with her care team and her family

“That had to do with her sheer determination to survive,” Megan says. “Holly doesn’t go halfway on anything, ever. That just who she is. She understands that she has a lot of power.”

Whenever she could, Holly played hard with her siblings. Over the course of her treatment, her brothers and sisters have gone through their own trauma of having a sibling face cancer. The Coxsons’ neighbors and family have helped them immensely. “Things were just turned upside down,” Megan reflects, “but I would say we’ve all come through it remarkably well. We worked hard as a family to stay connected. We savor every moment we’re all together.”

A little more than a year after that fateful Halloween, Holly finished her treatment—just in time for her December birthday. “She’s our little Christmas Holly, so we call her Holly Berry,” she laughs. “And Holly is still convinced that her full name is Holly Berry Princess Coxson.”

“Right now she’s cancer-free and has no fear,” Megan reports. And the Coxsons and Holly’s care team are optimistic. “Her story’s not done being written,” Megan says. “We’re just getting started.”

Holly Coxson wearing a cat ear headband and sticking out her tongue

Cancer touches all of us.