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'Warrior Princess's' Battle with Cancer Fires Up Community

Claire Koreck is just 4, but she's fighting a battle against Ewing's sarcoma well beyond her years. With Gloucester Township and CHOP doctors behind her, Claire is slowly on the mend.

Watch out, cancer, here comes your worst enemy. She’s a new masked, pink-caped crusader with a bionic arm and an unwavering resolve not to let cancer slow her down.

And she’s only 4 years old.

Meet Claire Koreck, better known to her family as the Warrior Princess. Claire’s world, along with her family’s, has been turned upside down since her diagnosis just two days into 2013 with a rare form of cancer, Ewing’s sarcoma.

When Gloucester Township residents turn out by the hundreds Saturday for Relay for Life, one team will walk every step with Claire in mind. The Princess Claire’s Warriors team is more than 20 strong and has more than $1,500 in pledges ahead of the relay. That money is vital to more research on Ewing’s sarcoma, a cancer that almost claimed Claire’s arm.

A warrior princess emerges

The Korecks—dad Patrick, mom Sheila and kids Quintin, Maeve, twins Claire and Declan, and Sarah—were getting ready for what promised to be a wonderful Christmas this past year.

“My husband and I were laying in bed Christmas Eve, listening to kids running around, screaming and laughing, and we thought it was the perfect year for them. This Christmas was going to be awesome,” Sheila Koreck recalls. “Thirty-six hours later we were in the ER, scared to death.”

Claire had screamed in absolute pain when her brother picked her up. An ER visit revealed a broken humerus, the upper arm bone that extends from the shoulder to elbow. Scans also showed Claire had a tumor. She was soon diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a bone cancer usually found in children.

And with that, the Korecks’ lives changed. Suddenly there were doctor’s appointments, painful tests, hospital stays and questions about whether her right arm could be saved. Claire began intensive chemotherapy treatments lasting for days at a time.

There are bad days, to be sure. The harsh drugs and roller coaster blood counts aren’t easy for anyone, much less a 4-year-old. Claire has at least eight more rounds of chemo to go and every round can send her spiraling.

“But when she feels better, she’s ready to go,” Koreck says. “God gave her that personality to handle this.”

That earned Claire her Warrior Princess nickname.

“She’s worn a tiara since she knew what a tiara was,” says Tammi Vogel, the Korecks' nanny and one of the main fundraisers for Claire’s cause. “She’s always been a princess. But when this happened, her mom started calling her the warrior princess, and that’s who she is now.”

Clad in a pink cape and mask, which she often wears to medical appointments, Claire embraces her inner warrior princess. She even got a new “bionic arm,” as she calls it. Just two weeks ago, Claire’s humerus bone was replaced at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia with a prosthetic, a custom-made piece that will grow as she does.

Along with the bionic arm came good news—the CHOP surgeons had clean margins around the cancer and removed the entire tumor.

Walking for the warrior

Vogel is in awe of Claire, she says.

“Even before this, all you heard from her was, ‘I will do it myself.’ She’s very independent and that hasn’t changed,” Vogel says. “She does have her moments of sadness when she can’t go out to play with other kids because her counts are low. She would say she hates her tumor.”

Just as often, Claire acted as any young girl would. Vogel stopped in to to see her recently before Claire’s counts get too low from chemo that she’s not able to have visitors.

“She was running around the house, she wanted to dance; she wanted me to chase her,” Vogels says. “You’d never know she’s four days out of chemo or two weeks out of surgery.”

Claire’s pluck has inspired a large community response to rally around the Korecks, who have lived in the township’s Sicklerville section for nine years. Family babysits the three younger kids, friends drop off dinners. There have been fundraisers for the family to help cover Claire’s medical bills and ease the family’s burden after Sheila took a leave of absence from work in January to care for Claire.

Relay for Life of Gloucester Township is a chance to again support Claire and also let more people know about Ewing’s sarcoma. Leading the charge for Princess Claire’s Warriors are team leaders Kim Corcoran, Claire’s aunt; Vogel; and Lisa Hallsworth, whose idea it was to participate in Relay for Life for Claire.

“You just don’t hear about (Ewing’s sarcoma) because people don’t talk about it because it’s sad,” Vogel says. “These kids are being treated with grownup poisons because they don’t have funding to do the right research. We need funding to get appropriate treatments.”

Keep your eye out on Saturday for the Warrior Princess in a pink cape—the family hopes Claire can attend for at least part of the day. And if not, Koreck vows, she’ll wear her daughter’s pink cape and walk for her.

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Kristie Bell June 07, 2013 at 04:02 AM
The American Cancer Society only gives about one cent from every dollar raised to fund childhood cancer research. If you want to help fund a cure for childhood cancers the ACS Relay for Life events are not the place to put your efforts or dollars. The ACS has helped a great deal with adult cancers but not childhood cancers. Please read this article for examples and data: http://curechildhoodcancer.ning.com/forum/topics/so-where-does-the-money-go Sincerely, The mom of a childhood cancer angel
Jacqui Gaskill June 07, 2013 at 08:50 PM
The American Cancer Society provides resources, information, and services to people in our local community every day- children and adults, with every kind of cancer. Do you know about ACS's Hope Lodge? That's where people can stay for FREE if they need to travel out of state for cancer treatment, children or adults, with their families, for as long as they need to. Do you know about Road to Recovery? That's the program for cancer patients who need rides to their treatment. That's also a free service. These are just two of the many ways that the American Cancer Society is helping our neighbors every single day, children and adults. These programs and all of the others are made possible, largely because of the Relay For Life events.
Katie Jenkins June 07, 2013 at 11:40 PM
You are right Kristie, I wouldn't donate to ACS. It's sad that they use children for marketing, yet help them very little.
Trish Adkins June 08, 2013 at 01:05 AM
The American Cancer Society directs relatively nothing to childhood cancer research. They do, however, do a lot of good in other ways. It is maddening to me, as the mother of a childhood cancer survivor, that this gigantic charity continues to use children in marketing. If they are going to tug at our heart strings--then they need to back it up with real support and real research. 46 children a day are diagnosed with childhood cancer. It is heartbreaking. It is a very real war we are waging. All of this said, my prayers and my support go to this beautiful little girl fighting cancer. She is a hero. Signed, The mother of brain tumor survivor.
Lauren Burgoon June 08, 2013 at 01:41 AM
I feel the need to step in here. We heard about Claire's story, learned of the Gloucester Twp. connection and pursued it. Whatever you think about ACS, this article is not about the organization using "children for marketing." That accusation is pretty insensitive in light of the tough fight this little girl is facing. No one is trying to profit from her illness.
Trish Adkins June 08, 2013 at 02:09 AM
Claire is a warrior and a hero. There is no doubt.
Patch reader June 08, 2013 at 02:32 AM
I don't think anyone is disputing the face that Claire is a Warrior. But if you want to find a CURE for childhood cancer. You should not donate to ACS. I believe that was what the previous poster was saying.
Lisa Hallsworth June 08, 2013 at 12:00 PM
Besides raising money for cancer research, the premise of Relay for life is to CELEBRATE, REMEMBER, and FIGHT BACK. Claire and her family are fighting very hard right now. This team was formed to help rally around them and show love and support. Come out and see the love and support that is there. FYI, we are walking for CHOPs childhood cancer walk in September. We can share the love!
Katie Jenkins June 08, 2013 at 03:50 PM
Claire is a beautiful, strong warrior no doubt about that! Her being at the relay will bring awareness which is what the family and friends of children affected by cancer want. I am well aware of the fight she is battling since my son has been doing it for years. As the mother of a childhood cancer warrior it angers me that ACS doesn't do more for children yet uses them in marketing. I'm not sure why you found my comment insensitive, i'm just trying to bring awareness. My love, prayers, support go out to Claire and her friends and family <3
Kristie Bell June 09, 2013 at 12:12 AM
I just wanted to make sure the readers understood what I meant when I said I was the mother of a childhood cancer ^angel^. My 16 year old only child passed away in February after battling anaplastic ependymoma for 5 1/2 years. I promise I am more sensitive to the battles that Claire and her family are facing than you can imagine. I am not arguing. I am not insensitive. I AM heartbroken. Facts are facts. Our children need a Cure. The ACS uses children to get people to donate money to the ACS. The ACS does not use enough of that money to help find a cure for childhood cancers. Relay is a lot of fun. It's a great time to get out and visit with friends and eat some great food. It's a great way to remember and celebrate the Warriors and the Angels. It is NOT the best place to donate money to fund childhood cancer research. Like Katie, my love, prayers and support go out to Claire and her family and friends. Praying for a Cure-Kristie m/o ^Aaron the Amazing^
Sammi Adelman June 09, 2013 at 01:47 AM
One of the greatest families I've ever met in my life! She is such a strong little girl and her family is too! I love them so much!

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