NJ girl, 4, may have year to live — and wants books
VINELAND — Just a few weeks ago, Evangeline "Lena" Tietjen was just like every other 4-year-old, playing games, playing dress up and enjoying life.
But then she was diagnosed with a brain cancer and her family learned that she may have as little as a year to live.
While the family has since received heartbreaking news about the young girl, they have also seen the kindness of strangers. A GoFundMe page and a book drive have resulted in a heartwarming show of support.
The GoFundMe page has already exceeded its $50,000 goal in less than three weeks, and a collection of books for the young avid reader has resulted in close to 500 books being collected.
The help from the community came after the girl woke up one day not feeling well. According to the page, it was assumed that the girl had caught a stomach bug that did not get better. A doctor recommended the family take the girl to a neurologist, but before that happened she started having difficulty with her right arm and leg, family said online.
Doctors found a mass on her brain. Over the next five days, she underwent a biopsy and a procedure to help drain the swelling from her skull.
"Our family was sure that we would receive positive news and that we would soon be undergoing surgery for this tumor," the family said on the page.
That positive news did not come, as Lena was diagnosed with a Grade III anaplastic astrocytoma, which is a rare, malignant brain tumor. The family says Lena' tumor is inoperable.
"This news is devastating and the family is in shock," the website says. "From what we understand, surgery is not available due to the location and type of tumor. Without any treatment doctors predict that she will have three months to live. With the multiple treatments beginning in a few weeks, the doctors are hopeful she can live for a year. We will fight this prognosis EVERY. SINGLE. DAY."
According to the GoFundMe, the money is being raised to help the family through this difficult time, including being there for Lena's twin brother Clark during "the battle of their lives."
The family has also started what it calls "Lena's Library, in an effort to collect books for the young girl to read during her treatment. Books for the library should be sent to this address:
Dr. Juanita Davis
Thomas W. Wallace Junior Middle School
688 North Mill Road
Vineland, NJ 08360
Davis told New Jersey 101.5 that the school got involved because Lena's uncle is a former teacher at the school and they wanted to show their support for him and his family.
"We felt very concerned, and we wanted to out pour our love to him," she said. "The family has been really supportive of our district over the years and this was a way of us showing our support."
Being able to support the family and provide Lena an activity she loves during this difficult time makes the effort that much more special, according to Davis.
"Lena loves to read, and it's just awesome that the community has come together with a showing of their love by sending wonderful children's books to contribute to Lena's Library," she said.
With more than 500 book collected, Davis called it "awesome to see that people really have been touched by this story, and that they want to support Lena's efforts."
Davis said she believes the family will use the donated books to create a children's library in Lena's name at some point in the future.
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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com