SPECIAL REPORT: Ariah's Fight
ULSTER, Pa (WENY) -- If you drive through the town of Ulster, you'll see it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. But the folks in town are asking for something special this holiday season; something you can't find underneath the tree. It's for the good health of 6-year-old Ariah Cook who has been fighting terminal brain cancer since late January of this year.
"Well the tumor is next to the stem cell of the brain," said Ariah's grandmother, Nancy Mcconnell. "So it was non-operable because if they touched it just right, she could've died on the operating table."
After spending some time at Geisinger hospital in Danville getting treatment, Ariah was sent to Pittsburgh where they received more bad news from their doctor.
"The tumor is called a 'death tumor'," said Mcconnell. "I said otherwise what you're telling me is that we're going to lose our grandbaby. He said probably, but I can't tell you how long."
The chemotherapy is to keep the tumor from being aggressive and help prolong her life. But Ariah's grandparents say no matter what this little girl has gone through, she's remains tough.
"She's a fighter," said Mcconnell. "She's strong, she's very loving. She's amazing, she's one of a kind."
To learn more about Ariah's tumor, WENY News reached out her doctor at Geisinger who explained the situation she's in.
"One, it's incredibly rare and it's a tumor that about 1,500 children a year get," said Geisinger Pediatric Oncologist, Michal Miller, MD. "They usually get it about 5 to 9 years of age. She was 5 when she presented. Unfortunately we have no idea what causes it."
But when the odds are stacked against them, even the world's best fighters are able to find inspiration. For Ariah. she had to look no further than her community. Family friends Amber Gray and Jody Davidson stepped in to light up the night with Ariah's favorite things; holiday decorations.
"So Jody messaged me and said why don't we see if we can get everybody to put their stuff out early, and the town went crazy with it and that's all that it took," said Gray.
People started putting up their lights as far out as Towanda and Tunkhannock, to Athens and Elmira. From that moment, Ariah united a region.
"This one little girl has brought this town together in a way that it never has been before,"said Gray. "We've had neighbors come together and say, 'We've never seen Ulster come together like this.' It's not just our town, it's the surrounding communities that are supporting us. We've gotten donations, my gosh, from all over for blow ups and lights and it's been humbling."
For everyone's love and kindness, Ariah says she has a message for them.
"I would say that I love all of you," Ariah said with a smile on her face.
If you'd like to help donate to Ariah's family to offset some of the costs for treatment, you can call Ariah's Grandmother, Nancy Mcconnell, at 607-481-4952 for more information.
In the end, all it took was one little girl to show the Twin Tiers what it truly means to be Ariah strong.