Chelsea Clark’s dreams of appearing in beauty pageants, and ultimately settling in a modeling career, had to be put on hold when she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare and severely debilitating form of bone cancer. To make matters worse, the cancer has spread to her lungs.
The petite 11-year-old daughter of Tom and Vickie Clark, underwent a highly complex surgery Monday at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis in an effort to save her left arm from amputation which the medical team had initially feared would be unavoidable.
Misti Hillis, a close friend of the Chelsea Clark family, reported from just outside the surgery suite at St. Jude the lengthy operation Monday “was very successful.” Six surgeons in all, including one reconstructive specialist and one plastic surgeon, worked in stages during the operation.
Chelsea will likely remain in surgical ICU for the next two days, then progress to a general-care unit for a few more days, according to Hillis. The physical therapy and rehabilitation will begin soon.
“Chelsea is very determined to regain full use of her arm and she’s ready for the rigors of the physical rehab process,” Hillis said. “She and her family are very appreciative of all the prayers, good wishes and support from the community.”
While Chelsea is receiving world-class medical care at St. Jude, the family is burdened not only with the natural worries for their child but also the heavy expenses of living away from home and commuting between McMinnville and Memphis.
Organizers of a Nov. 10 chili supper and auction benefit for the Clarks say both Vickie and Tom need vehicles more reliable than the ones they now own. Tom and son Josh, 15, have experienced more than one mechanical breakdown in their weekly commutes between hospital and home.
“They have not asked for anything,” said Hillis. “They’re the kind of humble people who just wouldn’t ever ask. All they want is for Chelsea to be well. And a lot of people in this community want to help them through this trying time.”
The Warren County Democratic Party, which had already scheduled a political rally last Friday, was among the first to offer financial aid to the Clark family. Local Democrats, upon learning of Chelsea’s situation, stuffed a fishbowl with cash totaling $407, according to party chairman Charles Yancy.
“We realized the main fundraiser wasn’t going to be held until Nov. 10, so we said why wait?” said Yancy. “The people of Warren County are not only compassionate but feel a real sense of obligation for their neighbors who’ve fallen, through no fault of their own, into real need. We’re grateful for the opportunity to help.”
The Saturday, Nov. 10 fundraiser at Warren County Middle School cafeteria will start with a chili supper – minimum $5 donation per person – at 5 p.m., followed by a benefit auction at 7 p.m. Live music will be offered by Midnight Flyer.
For further information, contact Misti Hillis at 931-409-8755, or Mitzi Ramsey at 931-224-9106.