Ten-year old Whitney Wells has her good days and bad, afternoons in which her bubbly, amusing personality comes to life and some in which she can hardly move.
Five months ago, doctors discovered a tumor in her brain stem, diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) in medical terminology. The prognosis, to be frank, is bleak.
“We’re trying to give her as many experiences as we can,” her father, Scott, said. “Anything to make the day better.”
In August, the Wells family, residents of St. Joseph, drove over to Chiefs training camp. They met quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce, wide receiver Sammy Watkins and head coach Andy Reid. Scott remarked at their down-to-earth nature.
At some point during their conversation after a practice, the family provided players with a fundraising bracelet featuring their catch phrase through Whitney’s fight.
You got this!
Whitney has talked often about that day. She’s always been a Chiefs fan. The Wells family rarely misses a game on TV.
In early September, they sat together and watched the Chiefs’ opener in Jacksonville. They spotted something on Mahomes’ wrist, a band of baby blue. Almost immediately, Scott’s phone buzzed. A friend had paused the TV and blown up the picture.
And there were those three words, clear as can be, wrapped around Mahomes’ wrist.
You got this!
“She couldn’t believe it,” Scott said of his daughter, his voice breaking. “She’s just so excited.”
Later in the game, they noticed Watkins wearing the bracelet, too.
“Had no idea they would wear it, especially during a game,” Wells said. “It made us feel like they care.
“We’re always looking for it now. It does make it a better day when we see it — or a better weekend.”
Whitney celebrated her 10th birthday on May 8. That’s when Scott and his wife, Tara, initially noticed something seemed off. Whitney’s facial expressions were abnormal. She wasn’t smiling or laughing. And she bounced off a doorway rather than gliding through it.
Children’s Mercy Hospital doctors discovered the brain stem tumor. DIPG has no cure. Recently, Whitney saw a specialist in Cincinnati and began taking a recommended trial drug. Next week, she will return for an MRI to decipher its effectiveness.
She has been pulled out of school in St. Joseph, and Tara has taken a leave of absence from her job to care for her full-time. Whitney has trouble walking without assistance. Her facial movement is sometimes limited. The tumor can cause mood swings.
Which further emphasizes the importance of bright moments. She met her favorite Royals players this summer, including Salvador Perez, Danny Duffy and Ian Kennedy, along with manager Ned Yost.
And now she feels an ongoing connection with Kansas City’s star quarterback. As Mahomes lay on the grass Thursday following his knee injury in Denver, the blue wristband popped into the middle of the scene captured by the national TV cameras. That image cycled through social media, particularly a Chiefs Facebook group that refers to itself as the Lot J Tailgating Crew.
The group’s administrator, Nate Morrow, posted the photo after watching a replay of the game on NFL Network over the weekend. Morrow said the crew will make koozies and bring the bracelets to the Chiefs’ game Sunday against the Packers, selling both items during their Lot J tailgate as a fundraiser for Whitney.
Mahomes isn’t expected to play Sunday, the knee injury sidelining him indefinitely. But he figures to be shown on the TV cameras often. The Wells family will be watching, hoping to see a reminder of their daughter’s fight. And if and when they do, Tara has a habit of saying it out loud.
You got this!