‘I hope you’re not worried about me’ — Girl, 10, reaches out to supporters while fighting cancer

Posted at 11:01 PM, Apr 05, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-05 23:01:06-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- People from all around the world are rallying behind a 10-year-old girl from Grand Rapids who is fighting a rare form of brain cancer.

In March, Sammy Bannister, 10, was diagnosed with an anaplastic astrocytomo.

While countless people started following her family on Facebook and showing their support, Sammy is showing them something as well: That a lot of courage can be packed into a small amount of years.

In a video recorded by Sammy's father, the girl can be seen in her hospital bed at Helen Devos Children's Hospital, where she speaks this message to her supporters, "I hope you're not worried about me...I will do OK. I'll make sure that I do fine."

Sammy's parents, Jeremiah and Angela Bannister, said their daughter began complaining of headaches earlier this year. While they initially thought she had the flu, the pain never went away. So, they took her to an ophthalmologist to have her eyes checked.

"One of her eyes wasn't dilated and they said immediately we should go to a pediatrician," Jeremiah said.

While at the pediatrician's office they were about to learn that Sammy's headaches were a symptom of a much bigger and much scarier problem.

"Two of the doctors looked at her and went outside the door," Jeremiah said. "When they came back, they said that they had already contacted Helen Devos Children's Hospital, and that we need to go immediately to get an MRI."

That was on March 18. Sammy and her parents haven't left the hospital since. On March 30, surgeons removed 60 to 70 percent of Sammy's tumor.

According to American Brain Tumor Association, an anaplastic astrocytoma is a grade III tumor that requires more aggressive treatment than a benign pilocyctic astrocytoma.

While the road ahead is long and filled with uncertainty, it's the love and support from complete strangers that gets the Bannisters from one day to the next.

"The gifts that we've gotten from people, the cards that come in from across the state from people that we really don't know--it's really amazing," Angela Bannister said.

The family's Facebook page continues to draw in hundreds of visitors.   More people rally beside the 10-year-old every day, sending their own personal gestures, while lifting her spirits and filling her hospital bed with love.

"Thank you for the stuffed animals," Sammy said, surrounded by stuffed animals in her hospital bed.

Sammy can be seen smiling instead of frowning in her videos. For her parents, they believe their daughter is a gift to those who follow her journey.

"She's amazing, the bravest girl, she just has so much courage," her mother said.

As for Jeremiah, he said his daughter is one tough little girl, who inspires people of all ages.

"She's a fighter, she's hardcore," Jeremiah said. "All these people [are] finding a common interest and finding something that they can all say, 'there is the sun shining and we're all gathered around and her name is Samantha.'"

Sammy will soon be moving to Mary Free Bed where she will undergo physical therapy, chemotherapy and radiation.  Her supporters can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.  The family will be using, #TeamTinyDancer for all social media. Sammy's father said Tiny Dancer is the song she requested to be played during her surgery.