It's been months since Valerie Jacoby has closed the front door in the morning to an empty house. Since the beginning of last summer, most of her time has been spent alongside her daughter, Rialee, who was in the fight of her life as she battled against Ewing Sarcoma cancer in her leg. Tuesday morning, Rialee was finally ready to go back to a full day of school.
"It was so quiet," said Jacoby. "I don't know what I am going to do with myself."
Jacoby welcomes the solitude for the best possible reason. Rialee has been in and out of doctors' offices and taken countless trips to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for chemotherapy, surgeries and occupational and physical therapy appointments. Two weeks ago, doctors cleared Rialee's return to Willow Dale Elementary, but Jacoby was not quite ready.
"I knew there was a stomach bug going around, I wanted to keep Rialee from getting it," said Jacoby. "Rialee was begging me for two straight weeks, she loves her friends and her teacher. We finally agreed to let her go."
While she stayed at home getting healthy, Rialee kept up with schoolwork with home-bound tutoring. She cannot participate in gym class and recess, so Rialee will spend that time with her teachers getting caught up with the rest of class.
Rialee was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma the day after the last day of school in June 2013. Her left leg began to swell up earlier in 2013, and numerous trips to CHOP revealed a tumor growing on her bone. Ewing Sarcoma is a pediatric bone cancer that attacks the bone tissue with aggressive tumors. After she received a few doses of chemotherapy, Rialee went into surgery to have her left knee and tibia bone replaced by metal rods.
"She's been having a hard time with adjusting," said Jacoby. "If the temperature goes below 25 degrees, she can't bend her knee. She walks with a limp, but we hope, with enough occupational and physical therapy, Rialee can start getting active again."
After three more doses of chemotherapy, Rialee will be considered "cured," but the fight will not be over. Rialee's parents will be pulling out all the stops to keep the cancer from coming back.
"That's going to be the next challenge, keeping her healthy," said Jacoby. "We're looking into different diets, keeping up with the doctor appointments and just finding ways to keep the cancer out."