Community rallies around Brylee as cancer fight enters final days
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
LAYTON — Young Lara Olson and Katie Hales quickly became friends in elementary school. Their friendship continued through band practice, church activities and later, through graduation from Viewmont High School.
Years later, Olson and Hales now have children of their own. The two stay in touch through Facebook.
Hales, along with hundreds of others, watched as one of the Olson's three children, Brylee, was diagnosed with an inoperable and terminal brain tumor on March 6, 2013 — a tumor that turned the family's world upside down and was first profiled in the Deseret News on Thanksgiving day last year.
Brylee is currently receiving hospice care in her Price home as her family prepares for her final days.
"I saw her little girl and she's about the same age as my son," Hales said. "It was hard to see them go through this. I just wanted to find a way to help them."
The need for help was amplified when Hales learned the family was about to lose their cell phones and car.
"Cancer in and of itself is just extremely expensive," Olson said.
Besides the cost of chemotherapy and radiation, there are also doctor bills, inpatient stays, additional medication, and gas money for the Price family to travel to Salt Lake City for treatments, financial realities the family has been dealing with for the past year as they've sought care and comfort for Brylee.
After finding tumor growth in August, Brylee began a new chemotherapy treatment through November that Olson said cost more than their home.
"She did that (chemotherapy) once a week," Olson said. "So that's 12 weeks, that's 12 doses of this chemo and that's 12 houses."
Insurance covers much of the medical treatment. The cost of living is another story. Cory Olson lost his job in November 2012. But it was a setback that the family now sees as a blessing.
"We decided as a couple that it was more important for him to stay home and not find a job for Brylee's remaining time here with us," Lara Olson said.
Now the Price community is trying to provide some measure of financial relief.
Hales approached the owner Jamie Dicks of My Gym Children's Fitness Center, where she takes her children, about doing a fundraiser for the family.
"The community has fallen in love with Brylee," Dicks said. "We wanted to do our part."
Dicks, who also owns the Sub Zero ice cream shop next door, will host a parent's night out on May 30 at her gym in Layton. The night will be "Frozen" themed with games, pizza, ice cream and an appearance by characters Anna and Elsa from the movie. Parents who want to register for the event or donate can fill out a form here.
Amber Walker lives down the street from the Olsons and is also putting together a carnival to raise money for the family. The carnival will be in Price on May 31. Admission is $5 and includes games and food. There will also be a silent auction.
All proceeds for both events will go to the family.
Walker said putting on the carnival for the Olsons has been "honestly heartbreaking, and amazing all at the same time."
Generosity has poured in from the local community and others as far as California, West Virginia, and New York. She said it has inspired her to be a better person.
"Meeting Lara and seeing how much she's done for Brylee, it makes me appreciate my kids more, " Walker said. "It makes me want to spend every second with them, not to take anything for granted because it just, you know life changes so fast."
Life has changed at warp speed for the Olsons after an MRI showed more tumor growth in April.
"I don't know how she keeps making it to a next day and a next day," Olson said. "I feel like she wakes up every morning and loses something else."
Brylee has lost the ability to use her right arm and leg. She can no longer eat or drink on her own and has difficulty speaking. She began having seizures on Sunday.
"I keep thinking that, like this day is the last day," Olson said. "Then she shocks me and wakes up."
Olson said her baby girl has a spirit that will always fight.
"I've never seen anyone so bound and determined to do the little things," she said. "It baffles my mind every single day when I watch her. She is an incredible little girl."
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