Teen cancer survivor Grace Carey rocks her handmade costume this year while she and her family raise awareness about longterm cancer survivorship.

By Kristi Pahr
October 31, 2019
Courtesy Grace Carey

Dressing up for Halloween is fun for kids of all ages but for Grace Carey, Halloween means more than just going door-to-door for candy. When Grace was five years old, she was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a type of brain cancer, and every Halloween since her remission, she's used Halloween to celebrate her uniqueness.

During her treatment, which consisted of intensive radiation and chemotherapy, Grace began hand-sewing clothes for her dolls. The more she sewed, the more hooked she was and now, twelve years later, she has an impressive array of Halloween costumes she designed and put together herself. Now 17, Grace is ready to debut this year's costume, the first one she's made completely on her own, and it's a doozy.

Courtesy Grace Carey

Grace has been cancer-free for 12 years, but the very nature of her treatment, brain surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, has left her with a unique set of challenges. Grace lives with cataracts, hearing impairment, and fine motor and executive function delays. According to Grace's mom, Rebekah, Grace has been an inspiration for their entire family. "She taught us a lot about what it means to be positive and focus on the silver linings and for her to have this new love of sewing and the ability to do it is really. It's really pretty fantastic."

Halloween is Grace's favorite holiday and she looks forward to getting dressed up all year long.

"I've always enjoyed dressing up and creating costumes and creating outfits, based on character characters or an idea that I have," explains Grace. "And I'll still enjoy pretending it's nice to have a time of a year or just a day when you can kind of get to be someone else." Grace loves to design her costumes around strong women from history, but some years she's inspired by books or shows that she loves.

Courtesy Grace Carey

“I choose characters to dress up as that are meaningful to me. One year I was Penelope Lumley, the main character from The Incorrigibles books by Mary Rose Wood. Not many people knew who I was, but I liked it because my mom and I had read the books together and loved them," she explains. "This year I wanted to be something that was meaningful to me and other people would recognize right away.”

Courtesy Grace Carey

Since taking up machine-sewing just under a year ago under the guidance of her teacher Lida Brooke, Grace has been able to create clothes for herself and her Halloween costume this year. Sewing, she said, gives her a sense of accomplishment. "I feel good about myself, creating my own clothing or costume or outfit. It feels good to say I did it."

Courtesy Grace Carey

With the help of Rebekah, Grace created the Grace for Good Fund, a St. Baldrick's Hero Fund. The fund has raised over $160,000 since it's inception ten years ago all going to fund research into long-term cancer survivorship. Once the cancer is gone, the challenges aren't over for childhood survivors. Survivorship research, explains Rebekah, goes beyond the treatment itself and into the quality of life childhood cancer survivors can expect and what they need to improve that quality. "After the experience that kids who have overcome cancer have had, where does that leave them? What kind of supports do they need at that point?"

Courtesy Grace Carey

Grace is excited to reveal her costume this year on the Grace For Good Facebook page. Like many of us, she grew up watching Sesame Street and loves the characters. She said she was inspired by Sesame Street and she thought it would be a fun challenge to recreate one of the most unique Muppets on the show.

Yip Yip! Happy Halloween, Grace!

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