SANDY — As 3-year-old Ruby Thackery plays soccer in her backyard in Sandy, you'd never know she is fighting stage 4 melanoma.
Born with a nonmalignant mass on the back of her neck that doctors removed when she was 2, a scan last March showed cancer.
At Primary Children's Hospital, nurses prepare her for a new scan. The stakes are high. It will show if an experimental drug is working to shrink the 40 tumors in her lungs.
Ruby bravely endured the scan, but the news was not good.
"I still had hope. I had to keep asking, 'Really, really?'" said Ali Thackeray, Ruby's mother. "It was just very heavy and quiet. I didn't know what to say. I didn't really want to say anything."
At a bike parade and fun run on a recent Saturday morning, hundreds gathered to support Ruby and pray for a miracle. If one doesn't come, her parents hope for this: "That we as a family can accept whatever Heavenly Father's will is for her, not that I need to understand it, but that we'll accept it and be a peace with it," Thackeray said.
As Ruby enjoyed her favorite yellow Gatorade, her mother took in the outpouring of support around her: kids with painted faces riding bikes, balloons everywhere, and friends she hadn't seen in years. The moment was bittersweet and brought her to tears.
"When you think about why people are here, it's because they love us, and they're here because of Ruby and to know we might not have her as long as we want," she said.
Mark Thackeray is Ruby's father. He snapped photos as Ruby played, documenting each part of her precious but harrowing journey. "It's challenging, in part, because she still looks and feels so healthy, so there are times when it's easy to put it in the back of your head," he said.
With her family riding in their minivan, Ruby was all smiles on their way to her wish-granting party. It felt like anything was possible. "I want to see what it's like at Disney World. I also want to see how happy Ruby's gonna be," said Siri, Ruby's oldest sister from the back seat.
Far away from a stark reality.
"Ruby came to me and said, 'I don't want to die. I want to stay here with you guys.' That was really hard, because, of course, we don't want her to die. We want her to stay with us," her mother said.
At Draper Historic Park, Ruby made a paper crown as she waited to find out if her wish would be granted.
"It's Elsa, Anna, and Kristoff!" shouted Ali Thackery as people dressed up as the Disney characters walked toward them and Ruby's face lit up with wonder. They embraced.
Ben Pack, with Bank of England Mortgage, unveiled a new Elsa bike and read the proclamation from Make-A-Wish Utah. "We hereby announce that Ruby's wish to travel to Florida will be granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Utah."
Mark Thackery pushed Ruby on her new bike. "There ya go!" he said.
There is one more trial drug Ruby's parents are looking into. In the meantime they're treating their time with her as short and counting their blessings.
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