Sioux Falls, SD
When a parent is told their child has cancer, dreaming about the future turns off as survival mode kicks in. For the McIlravys that happened just as quickly as they became parents. But a decade later, they're celebrating a milestone.
11-year-old Olivia McIlravy was born with the spirit of a champion. Just seconds old, she was ready to take on the challenge of fighting for her life.
"You know, we didn't find out right away. We delivered her and it was a few hours later and they came into our room afterwards to tell us what they had found," mother Sandy McIlravy said.
Olivia was born with stage four Neuroblastoma. It's an incredibly rare form of cancer; only 100 children have ever been born with it. She was just 36 hours old when she began chemotherapy.
"There's not much you can think about, just what the treatment is and what you an do right now for her," father Clayton McIlvary said.
Olivia became known for one thing that day, but it's not something her parents ever expected or wanted: she was the first baby born at Sanford with cancer. Eleven years later, she's being recognized for something else; she's ten-years cancer-free.
"Ten years, we go back once a year for a check up. Everything has been good," Sandy said.
And for ten years, KELOLAND News has been sharing her story. She's now flipping and tumbling her way through life as an aspiring gymnast with the memory of her cancer far from her mind.
"I don't know; I kind of just ignore it now actually," Olivia said.
Olivia's coach, Dennis Champoux, says that's what makes her such a great gymnast; she's not afraid of ever getting back on the bars.
"When we train, we train to get the highest score possible. We have some kids that they don't get a 9.2; they get an 8.8. And when you look back and say we have a kid who survived cancer, an 8.8 isn't that bad," Champoux said.
But Champoux says to not let this smiling face fool you. Olivia is setting the bar high not only in the gym, but also in life.
"She is such a strong girl and when you have to battle something that she battled, to have the extra strength to keep fighting is just wonderful," Champoux said.
That is exactly the life Sandy and Clayton want for their daughter.
"She doesn't even know. You can talk to her and she doesn't even really understand what she went through and where she has come from. I mean everyday is a new day for her," Sandy said.
And now as this 11 year old lives her life doing the things she loves most, with a smile constantly on her face, you would never guess what she's been through.
"There are side effects that we deal with, some hearing and sight issues, but those are common for her. She doesn't know any other way," Sandy said
Even with her hearing aids, it doesn't stop Olivia from being just like everyone else.
"I do everything pretty much," Olivia said.
As for what her parents want for her the most...
"Anything she wants, just a normal life," Clayton said.
"Yep, a good life," Sandy agreed.
Annual check ups will be a regular part of Olivia's life.
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