In early February of this year an 8-year-old girl named was having terrible stomach pains and her parents were struggling to find the source. After a plethora of tests and doctors, the second grader was diagnosed with a fast growing cancer called Burkitt’s Lymphoma. Thankfully, her tumor was diagnosed early which gave Brenna a fighting chance against this aggressive disease.
Her mother, Kerry Quirin, looked back on the diagnosis and her mother’s intuition.
“If you think something is wrong with your child and the 'typical' answers aren't sitting well with you, fight, fight, fight for an answer," she said. "From her first pain to a cancer diagnosis was only eight weeks because I was relentless. I called up doctors crying and begging for quicker appointment dates. I don't care who thinks I'm crazy. I KNEW something was seriously wrong with her.”
Word of her diagnosis spread through Downers Grove in late April and early May. Almost instantly, trees all around town were decorated with blue ribbons because blue is Brenna’s favorite color. The “Fight Brenna Fight” movement rallied around a small girl who had a big battle ahead of her. Cards and wishes and prayers were streaming in to the Quirins from friends, family and strangers. Adults and children were putting blue streaks in their hair to support Brenna. There were lemonade stands, bracelet sales, t-shirts, blankets and countless other forms of financial and moral encouragement.
In the ensuing months, Brenna’s fight against this cancer wasn’t easy or pretty, but it was successful.
“The tumor left us right after Round 3," Kerry explained. "A completely clear CT scan was taken just before Memorial Day! These last two rounds were to just be sure that there is not one cell left. There have been a lot of unexpected hospital stays due to the side effects of chemo and a lot of ups and downs, but we feel this has made us stronger as a family unit and that we accomplished killing this cancer together. But Brenna did the real hard work. She will be monitored probably through her teen years just to be sure the chemo doesn't cause any other problems in her life.”
The future is looking much better for the Quirin family. What lies ahead for Brenna, her parents and siblings, Clare and Joe?
“We look forward to a normal life again," Kerry said. "Perhaps with more clarity now into what is important and sharing ourselves with the world a little more. We will always be looking over our shoulder for this thing called cancer. But we have faith in our God and in our doctors. We have talked to four other Burkitt's Lymphoma families who are 2-5 years out from their nightmare and all is well with them.”
The outpouring of love and support from the Downers Grove community is certainly not lost on the Quirins. Kerry and her husband, Mark, have been overwhelmed with the response to their daughter’s battle. In fact, they wrote the following letter to share their gratitude:
Our family would like to take this opportunity to thank Downers Grove and the surrounding communities from the bottom of our hearts. In the last several months, you have rallied around our family and we can’t begin to tell you how often we leaned on this to get us through the darkest days of our daughter Brenna’s cancer diagnosis.
It all started with some light blue ribbons tied around trees as this is Brenna’s favorite color. Word spread and when we came home from the hospital after several days that first round of chemo, we became emotional at the sight of such support from our community.
Many of you, perfect strangers to us, have reached out by way of cards, meals, goodies left at the front door, your encouraging stories of cancer survival, and gas cards so it would make it easier for us to get up to Lutheran General Hospital. There were countless donations to Fight Brenna Fight that will be used to offset the medical costs this year and in the years to come, as Brenna is continually monitored. We appreciate every fundraiser including blue hair-streaks by our friend Dana Sharrett, Benefit Nights set up at area restaurants by our friend Hilary Vincent, a Bowling Fundraiser set up by co-workers at Good Samaritan Hospital, Theresa Stewart selling her beautiful jewelry, to name a few. Friends have made sure our house stayed nice and clean during the last few months and fresh food was brought over all the time to keep us stocked.
What is most touching to us throughout this experience though has been the children of Downers Grove that have come through, and let their little voices be heard to support Brenna and our family. The school kids have all reached out to us with cards, posters of support for Brenna, pictures, blankets, etc. There was one little girl, who we do not know, that gave up half of her birthday presents and instead asked the guests to donate to our family. There was another girl from who sold candy on her own and showed up at our house with the earnings. We do not know her. A boy from painted a beautiful picture of a sunflower for Brenna. A girl from made bookmarks and bracelets among other things to sell for the Fight Brenna Fight fund. had a lemonade stand, had an entire spirit week dedicated to Brenna’s Fight as well as their preschool kids organizing a lemonade stand all by themselves. sold bracelets, School held a fundraiser and posted pictures on the Fight Brenna Fight Facebook Group Page of the kids tying blue ribbons around their trees. and sent letters and posters of support and encouraging words to let us know they too were with us. There were countless lemonade stands for us. There are a LOT of very brave and kind-hearted kids in this town that are not afraid to think of an idea that will help their fellow neighbor—whether they know them or not. You parents should all be so proud.
Father Gavin Quinn has been a source of guidance and joy for us through this journey. He’s seen us at our worst and reminded us of our best. Like Brenna said, “Father Gavin is like my Step-Grandpa”.
We would also like to thank our college friends who bought Brenna an iPad when she was first diagnosed. This helped keep her occupied during the long inpatient weeks of chemo. Brenna feels like a big shot with her very own iPad!
We want to mention a few Downers Grove businesses that reached out in order to make things easier for us. held a Ladies Night Fundraiser, Outdoor Upgrades provided lawn care for us on a weekly basis, held a month long fundraiser, and Amy Tripple Photography took pictures of Brenna so we can document our journey. Thank you!
We have inevitably forgotten countless others who let us know that we were supported, whether we knew them or not. Please know that your support did not go unnoticed. We can’t thank you enough. Just know that all of your gestures made us smile and gave us encouragement during the hardest time of our lives.
Brenna’s tumor was gone after the third round of chemo! We were told that her cancer was aggressive, but so is the chemo. She went through two additional rounds of chemo just to be absolutely sure it was gone. She is expected to live a long and happy life!
How blessed are all of us to live in a community like Downers Grove! We will never forget what you did for our family.
Mark and Kerry Quirin
The Quirin’s ride was one that no family should have to experience. However, they are blessed as Brenna’s outcome was favorable. Not all kids are so lucky. Because the Quirins have determined that they do not need any additional funding to pay for Brenna’s medical costs, they would like those who wish to support Brenna to remember a Downers Grove boy whose battle has just begun. was injured when he was hit by a car while crossing the street earlier this year. Hunter’s accident , which was covered by Patch writers, is a poignant one. Because Kerry Quirin was a classmate to Hunter’s father, his recovery effort is very special to the family. Kerry said, “Their journey is on-going. The expenses from the medical equipment, supplies, and medication alone are staggering. I urge people to continually remember Hunter -- in six months, a year from now, three years from now. This family needs to become our community's family and we must never give up hope for Hunter.”
Donations can be sent to: Hope for Hunter, , 400 W. 75th St.
Downers Grove, IL 60516. Checks must include the account number 4514184488.