South Mississippi Strong: Eighth grader battles brain cancer with smile, positive attitude

South Mississippi Strong: Eighth grader battles brain cancer with smile, positive attitude

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - In less than two weeks someone will win the St Jude Dream Home. Along the way, thousands of donations will help save young lives at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. Many of those children are right here on the Coast.

When a child has cancer it affects everyone in the family. It’s a heartbreaking, stressful, and scary diagnosis. But one Biloxi eighth grader and her mom have learned to make the best of the difficult situation.

Elise Ritter, 13, is now in the eighth grade but her mom says she may never be fully cancer-free.
Elise Ritter, 13, is now in the eighth grade but her mom says she may never be fully cancer-free. (Source: Photo Krissi Ritter)

Thirteen-year-old Elise Ritter and her mom Krissi have shared so much together. They’ve shared even more since Elise’s brain cancer diagnosis almost three years ago. Now, they’re sharing another special moment after seeing the new St Jude Dream Home for the first time.

The Dream Home is special for Elise and her family because they say St Jude Hospital saved Elise’s life.

″I was diagnosed with brain cell germinoma cancer," explained Elise. “That’s when things got all serious so I had to go to St Jude and I was there like eight months in the fifth grade.”

“When we brought her to St Jude, she was within days of losing her vision and within months of possibly more than that," recalls Elise’s mom Krissi. "They gave us our daughter back.”

Elise said her mom Krissi, along with her dad and brothers, helped her keep a positive attitude while in the hospital battling cancer.
Elise said her mom Krissi, along with her dad and brothers, helped her keep a positive attitude while in the hospital battling cancer. (Source: Photo Facebook)

But it was frightening and Krissi says, at first, it felt like a nightmare.

“You’re a mom and you love your children and your job is to protect them," she said. "And when you get the news of cancer, what do you do? You sit back and say this can’t be true. No one ever thinks it’s going to be their child.”

But it was their child. And the battle has been tough to say the least.

“I was depressed a lot when I was there," said Krissi. "I would keep a journal and I would write in it and pray a lot.”

But despite Elise’s eight months in the hospital and some uncertain and difficult times going through treatment, she managed for the most part to maintain the positive attitude you see here today.

″I think attitude is one of the most important parts of just having the attitude that I’m going to get through this and I’m going to survive," said Elise. “Just the attitude, that you got this you can do anything.”

Elise said not just her mom but her dad and four brothers too played a big part in that attitude. Her mom said it played a big part during her treatment.

“I think we all played a role in her ‘can do’ attitude and I think mindset is a huge factor in the outcome of cancer," said Krissi.

That positive mindset proved to be critical during their long hospital stays, which were mostly spent with her mom.

“Sometimes I’d feel like giving up but she’d tell me, you’ve got this and she would help me and make me feel so much better," said Elise. "She’s amazing.”

Elise loves dancing and has dreams of becoming an actress one day.
Elise loves dancing and has dreams of becoming an actress one day. (Source: Photo Krissi Ritter)

Elise’s cancer is now in remission. She’s back in school, enjoying life again and planning for her future.

“I’m doing dance now so I’m hoping I can do really good with that and get better and maybe do some movies," said Elise. "I like acting.”

She’s also excited to be part of the St Jude Dream Home and to share her journey with others.

But her battle isn’t over. They still go for regular checkups every few months and her mom says she may never be cancer-free.

“We stay vigilant and St. Jude follows her very closely," said Krissi.

And this ongoing journey continues to bring the special mom and daughter even closer.

“We have always been close and this made it more special," said Krissi. "But when I look at her every day, I say I have a 13 year old hero in my life. She inspires me every day and reminds me that when in doubt you can overcome.”

Fundraisers like the St. Jude Dream Home help the world-renowned hospital care for children like Elise and it’s done at no cost to the families the hospital serves. Your $100 donation goes completely towards St. Jude’s to help them continue their mission. That ticket also gives you a chance to win the Dream Home, which is located at in Gulfport’s Landon Green.

This year's Dream Home is valued at $370,000 and features three bedrooms and three baths.
This year's Dream Home is valued at $370,000 and features three bedrooms and three baths. (Source: Photo WLOX)

There are fewer than 1,200 tickets left and none are being saved this year for the giveaway day, which is April 7. Along with giving away the Dream Home, other prizes will be given out as well, including a $5,000 furniture shopping spree. Tickets purchased before April 5 will also be eligible to win a new car.

Open house tours of the Dream Home are happening on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. now through April 7, 2019. The home is located in Gulfport at 10312 W. Landon Green Circle.

The 2,700 square-feet home is valued at $370,000 and features three bedrooms and three bathrooms.

To purchase a ticket online or read more about the Dream Home, click HERE or call 800-206-2263.

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