Lifestyle & Human Interest

Teenage Boy Took His 10-Year-Old Sister with Leukemia to His School Dance Before She Died


A cancer diagnosis always hits hard, but there’s something especially devastating about finding the awful disease in a young child.

Though physicians successfully treat many forms of pediatric cancer, it sometimes quickly becomes clear to everyone involved that a young life will end far sooner than it ought to.

When the Spader family of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, understood that it would lose one of its littlest members, they set out to do something truly special.

Rebekah Spader learned that something was wrong with her when she was only 6 years old, according to the Daily Mail. That something turned out to be myelodysplastic syndrome.

According to The Mayo Clinic, the condition itself isn’t cancer, but some of its forms can cause leukemia later down the line.

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The Spader family attempted a bone-marrow transplant, hoping that would save Rebekah’s life. But the little girl was also suffering from a nervous system disorder.

Unfortunately, the procedure didn’t work. The disease began to rapidly advance, and everyone knew that Rebekah’s days were numbered.

Rather than try to stretch out her days until they were strained to the breaking point, her parents decided to cease treatment so their daughter could enjoy the rest of her life to the fullest.

That was when her big brother A.J. decided to do something deeply touching.

Fifteen-year-old A.J. decided to take his now 10-year-old sister to his freshman formal dance in 2016, according to KSFY-TV. His parents found the idea absolutely enchanting.

Their mother, Stephanie Spader, said, “What girl doesn’t like to get all dressed up and beautiful?”

“It’s a lot of fun watching her,” dad, Tony Spader, said. “She’s so excited, and she’s smiling.”

A.J.’s offer — that Rebekah quickly accepted — becomes all the more amazing when you realize why he extended it. Instead of simply offering kindness, he knew full well that she wouldn’t live much longer and wanted her to have the experience.

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“I wanted to ask my sister, because she’s most likely not going to be able to experience high school,” he said. “So I just thought, ‘Why not ask her to formal?’”

His dad added, “He’s thinking about his sister and she’s not going to get to go to the prom or the formal when she’s in high school because she’s probably not going to make it to high school, so he just wanted to give her that memory.

“A lot of times, there’s a joy-filled moment, but yet there’s a little sorrow because you know this is probably one of her last opportunities she’s going to have to do something like this.”

But it would be a mistake to think that was the only reason A.J. did it. It is evident he loves his little sister.

“Her laugh is pretty great,” he said. “It’s really fun to just be around her and just make memories.I want to spend as much time with her as possible while she’s still doing good.”

The brother and sister team did enjoy the dance together, which occurred on Valentine’s Day.

It became one of their last shared memories. According to her obituary, Rebekah passed away on Aug. 4 that same year.

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A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine.
A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine. Most days find him crafting copy for corporate and small-business clients, but he also occasionally indulges in creative writing. His short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines. Loren currently lives in south Florida with his wife and three children.
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