TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) — Last Tuesday, 11-year-old cancer patient Ellie Pruitt woke up feeling sick and with an awful headache.
So her mother, Joy Pruitt, pulled up video of Ellie's adopted turtle, Melba, who lives at a turtle hospital in Florida. Watching Melba swim helped keep Ellie's mind off the headache and the painful spinal tap that would come later that morning.
Melba's sponsorship was a gift from Geoffrey and Beth Neuhoff of Neuhoff Communications, Joy said. It's among many ways the community has helped get the Pruitts through an emotionally draining treatment process.
Mountain States Tumor Institute in Twin Falls doesn't do pediatric oncology, so Magic Valley families battling childhood cancer need to commute to Boise for treatments. Depending on where they are in their treatment, that might mean making the two-hour drive as often as twice a week.
Joy didn't realize how hard this had been on her family until they got a two-week break from treatment recently.
"You don't realize how emotionally draining it is," she said.
Donations and gifts from the community make the Pruitts' emotional burden easier to handle. Ellie recently received an electronic keyboard from Welch Music and Jewelers for Children, and Meg Wormsbaker of Twin Falls used her 17th birthday party as a fundraiser for Ellie. The family has also sold pink wrist bracelets to raise money for the Leukemia &Lymphoma Society. As of Wednesday, they had raised $1,500.
Ellie's Facebook page also makes her smile. Her "Kickin' Cancer For Ellie" profile has more than 4,000 friends and is filled with cheerful posts from well-wishers.
"It really is the best medicine,"Joy said.
For other families whose children have cancer, there are ways to get support. Boise-based Camp Rainbow Gold offers free activities around southern Idaho for kids with a cancer diagnosis, and the Ronald McDonald House in Boise gives them a cheap place to stay.
That makes a difference. Before insurance and Medicaid, Ellie's treatments cost about $30,000 per month, Joy said. After insurance and Medicaid, the Pruitts pay between $200 and $300 per month for Ellie's treatments.
Medicaid also pays for gas from Twin Falls to Boise, plus three $7 meals a day for Ellie and whomever accompanies her while they're getting out-of-town treatments. That takes another burden off Joy.
It hasn't been easy for Ellie, but she stays focused on what the future has in store for her — good health, a potential vacation to visit Melba, and a new friend.
"We promised her a puppy," Joy said. "What was I thinking?"
Information from: The Times-News, http://www.magicvalley.com