Olivia Hansen, a 7-year-old Olathe girl who loved unicorns, dolls and planting magic jelly beans on Easter eve, died late Friday morning, less than three months after a new charity sent her on a dream Florida vacation before she became too sick to enjoy the trip.
Her mother, Margaret Hansen, spent Olivia’s final days afraid to sleep because she didn’t want to miss her oldest daughter’s final breaths.
“The brightest star in our sky has burnt out,” she posted online late Friday. “We love her so deeply, and miss her like you cannot even imagine. She was truly the light of our lives. I'm not sure how we will be able to go on without her.”
Diagnosed with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma when just 17 months old, Olivia experienced just one cancer-free birthday, at age 1.
After Olivia’s first relapse at age 3, the Dream Factory arranged a trip for her and her family to Disney World. Normally, children with terminal cancer are limited to one such wish, no matter which charity grants it. Sometimes, they pick one too soon. Other times, they pick a gift that they never get healthy enough to enjoy.
To help those children, Sporting Kansas City’s newest philanthropic endeavor, Sporting Wishes, this year began offering a second wish to children battling cancer for a second, third or even fourth time.
Olivia became its first recipient in early March, when Sporting Wishes sent her family on a new Florida adventure. In addition to touring the Magic Kingdom with her younger sister, Olivia got to play on a beach and pose for pictures next to a unicorn, one of her favorite creatures.
Not long after that, the cancer’s growth became relentless, despite chemotherapy and radiation.
Earlier this month, Olivia watched from a bed near her window as her Madison Place Elementary schoolmates stood outside her home praying and singing songs for her. Weeks earlier, they had decorated her front yard as a surprise greeting for her return from Florida.
She lived much longer than doctors expected after her first relapse. Facebook postings show how much her family cherished those extra years, albeit while fretting over how such a terrible cancer could attack such an innocent child and cause her so much physical pain.
Her mother’s Team Olivia Facebook entries detail a long journey filled with tests, needles, chemo, hair loss, radiation, headaches, pain, dizziness, nausea, a scary seizure, multitudes of missed school events and endless requests for prayers among all the dark clouds and dreary days.
May 11 marked half a year from an eighth birthday Olivia never got to experience. To celebrate the half-birthday mark, her family served her a cupcake with a unicorn on top with gold glitter. Too sick to eat, she asked her mother to save it in case she wanted to eat it later. She never did.
“If someone had told me 6 months ago on her actual birthday, that her health is where it’s at now, I wouldn’t have believed them,” her mother wrote on Facebook days later. “In November she was physically strong (for her), happy, her cancer was under control, she was healthy (relatively speaking) — you get what I’m saying — and less than 6 months later, her body is failing her very fast. Her cancer is widespread throughout her body and she is literally fighting each day for her life.…
“She asks ‘why’ a lot lately. It’s heartbreaking. ... It is horrible. It is unfair. It is ruthless.”
On Friday, in her post about Olivia’s death, her mother talked about how the many conversations they’d had in recent weeks about Heaven and God.
“She told me she was not scared,” Margaret Hansen wrote. “Of course she wasn't, because Olivia is SO brave! Way more than me.…
“We were so incredibly lucky have her with us for 7 and a half years.”