A Secret Life of Mom Highlight Story: Sometimes there are stories that are just too good, too beautiful, or too unbelievable to keep locked away. That’s why we scour the archives and bring some of them back to enjoy again. They may make you smile or shed a tear, but they’re always meant to add a little positivity to your day. This story is originally from February 2016.
Attending a school dance is something most children dream of. They go through their schooling careers planning out dresses, tuxedos, corsages, what ride they will rock up in, and the list goes on. There is something magical about the whole affair. One family was heartbroken when their little girl was diagnosed with a terminal illness. A few years later, in 2016, her brother realized she might not be able to attend high school herself. So, he invited her to his school’s winter formal on Valentines so she could lap up the experience before she passed.
They chose a dress and curled her hair
The Spader family has a motto, “Unbroken, brave, and blessed.” This truly is reflected in their characters, but in particular with their youngest child, Rebecca. She was terminally ill and not expected to live to reach high school. Her brother Aj Spader, knew this and decided to give her one night without the disease getting in the way. He wanted her to have the experience of a lifetime. Their winter formal was coming up. So, Aj invited her to attend the valentines day event as his date. Because she would not have that experience herself. Aj told KSFY: “She’s most likely not going to be able to experience high school. So, I just thought why not ask her to the formal.”
Aj said: “I wanted to spend as much time with her while she’s still doing good.” The 15-year-old wrote their family motto onto a poster and popped the question. She was delighted and agreed. The whole family stepped in to help her get ready and turned her into a princess for the night. Firstly, her grandmother curled her hair beautifully. Secondly, her 12-year-old sister put some makeup on her face. Thirdly, Aj had chosen a corsage for her. Finally, her dress was navy blue with a silvery neckline that sparkled with the tiara on her head.
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“It’s really fun watching her“
After taking many pictures of the two sitting together. They enjoyed dinner with all of Aj’s classmates. This included drinking from fancy champagne glasses. Rebekah loved every minute. She can be seen from the ABC News report saluting her champagne glass with all of Aj’s friends. The Spader parents are happy and proud of their children. But, at the same time, they’re proud of Aj’s friends for accepting Rebekah so well. “Aj and his friends embraced her and embraced the situation. And, didn’t blink twice that a little 10-year-old sister was going to hang out with them,” Tony said. “That for me was the most special thing.“
Rebekah’s father, Tony, told KSFY: “It’s fun to watch her live part of [her] life where the disease doesn’t creep in. Where she is just excited to be going and doing something that every child or teenager gets to do.”
Tony opened up about their relationship, which according to him is a very strong bond. This is regardless of her disease, and he is proud of his son for giving her such a beautiful experience. He said: “Rebekah and Aj have a close relationship and he has a really big heart. He wanted to allow her to do something that she wouldn’t get to do.”
Rebekah’s Terminal Illness
At the age of one Rebekah was diagnosed with hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy (HANS), a genetic nerve disorder. Five years later, Rebekah was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a group of cancers that affects bone marrow. Rebekah was specifically diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, which was further complicated by her HANS. She had bone marrow surgery, but the treatment did not work. A second surgery was risky, with a 5% survival rate, so her parents decided to stop treatment.
The family’s story was posted on social media. Since then, it has gone viral. Rebekah was known for hosting a 2015 benefit concert for other sick children. Unfortunately, Rebekah lost her battle with acute myeloid leukemia and passed away in August 2016 at the age of 10.
After her passing, parents Tony and Stephanie Spader decided they wanted to create a foundation in her honor to continue her legacy of generosity, the Rebekah’s Legacy Foundation. According to its Facebook Page “The purpose of the Foundation is to support families that are journeying through similar experiences as Rebekah and her family did and also give children who are compromised with medical conditions the opportunity to do things that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.”
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- “Teen Invites Cancer-Stricken Sister to His First High School Dance.” ABC News. Gillian Mohney. February 25, 2016.
- “Teen invites his terminally-ill sister to high school formal.” Yahoo News. Karina Nowysz. February 26 2016.
- “Myelodysplastic Syndromes Treatment (PDQ®)–Patient Version” NIH. Accessed June 23, 2022.
- “Girl who raised money for sick kids loses battle to illness”. Argus Leader. August 4, 2016.