URI staff members’ infant daughter is cancer free

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Violet Graney celebrates first birthday, family to give back to Hasbro Children’s Hospital

KINGSTON, R.I. – June 9, 2015 – The daughter of a pair of University of Rhode Island staff members, who was stricken with cancer in utero, recently celebrated her first birthday cancer free.

Violet Graney, daughter of Dan and Angela Graney, underwent her final round of chemotherapy Jan. 15 and subsequent MRIs have shown the cancer has not returned.

Reaching her first birthday alive and well was no certainty after Violet was born with a football-sized tumor on her left arm. It took a team of oncologists and nurses at Hasbro Children’s Hospital performing multiple surgeries and six rounds of chemotherapy, as well as the love and support of family, friends and the community to help Violet reach her milestone on May 25.

“We threw a huge party,” Angela Graney said. “We had 140 people at our house for a pig roast — hospital staff, doctors, nurses. Most everyone who helped Violet came except those who were on call. We had family, friends, people who supported us from URI, just everyone who made such a difference for Violet.”

Rather than gifts, the Graneys asked those attending the party to provide a donation. URI graduate student Emily Serman, who is pursuing a masters degree in engineering and works with Angela Graney, also solicited donations from family and friends. The Graneys will present the donation totaling more than $1,000 to hospital leadership at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, 593 Eddy St. in Providence, at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

Dan Graney, assistant director of Student Life for Substance Abuse and Prevention Services at URI, and Angela Graney, assistant director of the University’s International Engineering Program Living and Learning Community, saw the donations as an opportunity to teach their older children, Harrison, 8, and Paige, 6, about the importance of giving back.

“It’s not an astounding amount of money but we’re going to sit down with the people at Hasbro and they’re going tell Harrison and Paige what this money is for and how it will help other children,” Angela Graney said. “I’m interested to see how the children react. I think it’s going to be really impactful.”

Violet spent 226 days in treatment at Hasbro, and the Graneys came to know nearly all of the hospital staff. Angela said they wanted to take the opportunity to show their appreciation for everything the medical staff had done for Violet.

“We were very emotional,” Angela said of the completion of Violet’s treatment. “We were elated. It was interesting, though, because we never thought we would miss the people at the hospital, but we did. They love her like she was their own. So we were happy, but it was bittersweet in a way.”

Though Violet is no longer receiving treatment, she is undergoing occupational and physical therapy to help her arm develop. Angela said Violet is developing normally otherwise.

“Cognitively, she’s exactly where she’s supposed to be,” Graney said. “She’s able to do everything they ask of her, which is great because chemotherapy can slow down a child’s development.”

Violet still has another hurdle to clear — one that would have seemed much scarier to Dan and Angela before Violet’s cancer diagnosis. Doctors will perform another surgery on Violet in the fall, during which they will have to break her arm and reset it. The bone in her arm is bowed because of the weight of the tumor, and doctors hope the surgery will allow it to heal normally.

“It’s a matter of perspective,” Angela said. “With our first or second child, if you had told me doctors would have to break their arm, I would have thought, ‘Oh my gosh, why does this have to happen?’ After all Violet has been through, an outpatient surgery is something we can handle pretty easily.”

In the meantime, Violet returns to Hasbro every three months to undergo an MRI to make sure the cancer stays in remission. The MRIs will continue until Violet reaches the age of 5 and, if the cancer does not return by then, oncologists will consider her cured.

Violet’s 226 days in the hospital, and subsequent treatments leading up to the doctors’ declaration that she is cancer-free, were a long, arduous time for the Graneys, but Angela said the trauma is quickly fading into blurred memories.

“It’s funny because it seems like her treatment was so long ago, it’s hard to remember,” she said. “It’s hard to remember that big tumor on her arm. There’s such a sense of relief now. It’s a little scary going back every three months for a scan, but it gets better with each one.

“She’s the happiest baby you could ever see, and she’s so wonderful in so many ways. People all the time tell me, ‘Watch, she’s going to cure cancer someday,’ or ‘She’s going to save the world.’ I just want her to live a good life and she’ll exceed all of our expectations.”

See more of Violet’s story, and Dan and Angela Graney’s message to their infant daughter, in this video.