Three-year-old Olivia Swedberg is a princess to the core.
She’s crazy for Disney’s “Frozen” and loves frilly clothes. One morning, when her mom was attempting to dress her in slacks, she pitched a fit: “Princesses don’t wear pants!”
Now Princess Olivia will be the guest of honor at a June “prom,” one of a number of fundraisers her friends and neighbors have planned to pay for medical tests such as CAT scans, MRIs and hospice care not completely covered by insurance.
Olivia, the daughter of Brock and Lauressa Swedberg of North Platte, was diagnosed with a tumor on her brain stem on May 7.
Lauressa was featured in a World-Herald story on May 4 as the former winner of a Salvation Army D.J.’s Heroes scholarship. She overcame several obstacles to earn an associate degree, launch a career with the District 11 probation office and have a family.
The Swedbergs attended this year’s scholarship luncheon in Omaha on May 5, then arrived home to learn that Olivia had complained of having a terrible headache at day care that day. Lauressa took her to the doctor the next day, the tumor was found and the family returned to Omaha for consultation at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center.
Physicians there determined that the tumor was inoperable and would not respond to treatment, Lauressa said. Olivia will get hospice care at home. Most children who have the tumor — called DIPG — die within two years, according to dipgregistry.org, an website created and maintained by cancer physicians and researchers.
“I will cherish every minute I have with her,” Lauressa said.
An “overwhelming” response by people in North Platte started the night the Swedbergs returned home from Children’s Hospital, Lauressa said. About 50 people greeted them with balloons, flowers and banners.
Plans for Princess Olivia’s Prom took off: One store donated dresses and a tux for Olivia’s dad; another will provide flowers and balloons. All money raised at the June 7 event at the Hershey American Legion will go toward Olivia’s care.
A North Platte auction house will donate proceeds from a June 28 sale to the family, which includes one-year-old Sophia. An archery store is having a benefit raffle. Paws-itive Partners, a pet advocacy group, will give half of the proceeds from a raffle at its annual Woofstock event to the Swedbergs. Lauressa is vice president of the group’s board.
A mother-daughter pair is selling rubber “Prayers for Olivia” reminder bracelets. And the family has received scores of cards from close to home and across the country, a camcorder, dresses and a Power Wheels toy for Olivia. There’s also a GoFundMe page — Operation Olivia — for the family with $3,700 pledged so far.
Olivia already is having trouble with balance and grip. Lauressa said she thinks her daughter has picked up on the family’s anxiety, because she’s scared a lot now.
The cancer is rare — an average of 100 to 150 kids nationwide are diagnosed each year, the registry website said.
Lauressa said she has found solace in the response from the community and in her faith.
“The most comforting thing is I know she’s going to heaven,” she said. “I’m not angry with God. How could I be? He gave me this precious baby. It’s an honor to be her mom.”
Contact the writer: 402-444-1267, email@example.com