Just five days after her fourth birthday, Ivy Rosie Evans was diagnosed with Stage V bilateral Wilms Tumor. Cancer. The word no parent ever wants to hear became a harsh reality for Ted and Allicyn Evans, and they plunged into the nightmare of chemo, hospitals, scans, tests and all the pokes and prodding that come with treatment. Through the journey, Abilene embraced Rosie and watched with prayerful anticipation as she continued to (in Rosie’s words) “kick cancer’s butt.”
Most notably was the creation of the beautiful “Rosie” building in downtown Abilene. The larger than life size mural of roses was painted by the Evans’ good friend and artist Cal Johnson shortly after Rosie’s diagnosis. Rosie Evans completed the mural with her handprint when she began treatment. Next to her handprint, it read #PrayForRosie. And that’s what friends and family from Abilene and beyond did – prayed for Rosie and all of the children and families fighting cancer. Through social media, email, news stories, texts and calls Abilene followed a little girl’s battle to health and watched her get stronger each day.
Now three years later, the “Rosie Building” has sold to new entrepreneurs, Rosie Evans is strong and well, and she and her family painted over the mural, closing one of life’s chapters to begin to write the rest of her story.
So how is Rosie today? The short of it: Rosie is now considered “no evidence of disease.” She continues to be a regular at Cook Children’s Hospital but has graduated to the Life After Cancer Program at the Hematology/Oncology Clinic. She has testing every three months with her regular oncologist and will remain under surveillance there until she is 18 or older. And that is the best news any parent of a child with cancer can hear. The long of it, however, is bigger and more inspiring. Rosie is brave, compassionate and happy, well beyond her years.
The Evans family has had more than their fair share of cancer. Ted lost his father to cancer, and Allicyn’s father has had his own battle against cancer. Rosie has spent more of her life inside hospitals and treatment than outside of it. Yet still, this family emits a contagious hope and “joie de vivre.” Especially Rosie. She is willful and precocious. She holds eye contact when she speaks to adults as if they were her peers. And she has certainly never met a stranger and isn’t afraid of the devil.
“We don’t encourage fear,” Allicyn said. “And we don’t live in fear. Not any more. There are things she’ll say she’s afraid of – like the dark. But she’s overcome too much and gone through too much to let the dark stop her now.”
Spending so much time in the hospital and going through her own experience has created an acute awareness and hypersensitivity to other people’s feelings and needs.
“She can immediately sense when someone is anxious or sad or needs a friend,” Allicyn said. “She can read a room better than anyone. And if she senses it, she wants to fix it. She wants to sit with someone lonely or sad and make them feel better, to cheer them up.”
This is evident when watching Rosie play with her younger sister, EmmyLou. Just one year old at the time of her Rosie’s diagnosis, Emmy was often away from her immediate family during Rosie’s treatment and surgeries. Separation was hard on all of them, and these two sisters are deeply protective of one another and have an unbreakable bond.
Happiness seems to be looking through “Rosie” colored glasses. Rosie Evans recalls overnight trips to Weatherford to see friends with the same regard as she describes her Make-A-Wish vacation to Disney World. She takes on a play date at Red Bud Park with as much joy, gratitude and gusto as if it were a snow day in July.
“She missed out on a lot. And she was so sick,” Allicyn said. “So to be here, to be really present and feel so good is not lost on her or on us.”
Rosie’s state of happiness, her sense of compassion and her immense bravery have become the family’s state as well. In the middle of Rosie’s journey, the Evans were fearless and tackled the expansion of their business, Lone Star Dry Goods, beyond a local gift shop to a booming second location in Willow Park and social media juggernaut of men’s fashion and lifestyle.
Their compassion for others compels them to support Make-A-Wish, #EraseKidCancer, and other non-profits supporting our community and the development of downtown Abilene. And they are happy. Ted and Allicyn haven’t shaken the fear as well as Rosie; but, that’s ok, they say, because they’d rather it be their burden than hers.
How’s Rosie Evans doing? Well, it’s hard not to answer with the song:
“You’ll be swell! You’ll be great!
Gonna have the whole world on the plate!
Starting here, starting now,
Honey, everything’s coming up roses for me and for you!”
Everything’s Coming Up Rosie Evans
By Allison Bredemeyer
Photography by Beth Dukes