116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Between a car accident last year and a fight with cancer this year, Abby Burchland has been no stranger to the University of Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
But Saturday’s visit — her 14th and final round of chemotherapy — was different. It was finally a weekend visit during football season, and her room on the 11th floor overlooked Kinnick Stadium.
“She decided we needed to make posters,” Abby’s mother, Allison Burchland, said. “She has a twin brother, so he came and helped with the posters, too.”
The signs read “Wave,” “#Abby’sArmy,” “Last Chemo” and “Kicked Cancer’s Butt” with a blue cancer ribbon.
Then when it was time for the Iowa Wave in Saturday’s game against Michigan, Fox showed it prominently. Detroit News reporter Angelique Chengelis tweeted a photo of it, which quickly gained thousands of likes and more than a hundred retweets.
“It was kind of overwhelming,” Abby said.
Several Michigan fans offered their thoughts, prayers and support for the 17-year-old Iowan via Twitter, which was “so crazy to me.”
“A lot of people don’t want to be up here, including myself,” Abby said from the hospital. “So when people do that, it means a lot.”
It was a touching moment for Abby in what’s been a difficult last two years. Last April, she broke her left femur in a car accident and was at UIHC to get a rod and screws put in her leg.
That seriousness of the injury from the accident “didn’t really make a lot of sense,” her mother said. She then played volleyball and some basketball for East Marshall in 2021-22, and things didn’t seem right.
“She was running a lot more, and then she was in a lot of pain,” Allison said. “So we started some physical therapy, but then her leg started growing.”
On Feb. 3, 2022, UIHC doctors diagnosed her with Ewing sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that often occurs in bones. About eight months later, Allison can recall the date without any hesitation.
Along with the 14 rounds of chemotherapy, she has been through 36 rounds of radiation. After this round of chemotherapy, she’ll go through PET, MRI and CT scans and a round of radiation to hit “what they call a marker” on her left shoulder.
Then it’ll be a matter of routine checkups “to make sure that everything is staying good,” her mother said.
The family is happy to be nearing the finish line of this battle.
“I’m ready, that’s for sure,” Abby said.
Her East Marshall community has shown plenty of support. At a volleyball game this year, people wore pink and red in support of Burchland.
The support from Stead Family Children’s Hospital staff has been what Allison Burchland described as “best-case scenario” for the worst-case scenario of receiving a childhood cancer diagnosis.
“We’re going to be done here, and you make such relationships with the nurses,” Allison said as she began to get teary. “They just become family when you’re here as much as we’re here. So it’ll be sad to not be — I don’t want to be here, but also they really genuinely care about Abby and our family.”
The Burchlands have been Cyclones fans — Abby’s oldest brother is a senior at Iowa State — but the Hawkeyes are quickly growing on them.
“Her dad’s shifting,” Allison said. “When they care for your baby, it makes you have a whole different perspective on things.”
Abby, a senior in high school, has been accepted into the University of Iowa. She plans to study radiation sciences.
“I’ve always wanted to go into the medical field, but I was never sure what actual field to go into,” Abby said.
Her cancer diagnosis gave her a front-row seat to where a radiation sciences degree can take someone.
“I’ve taken so many tests, had so many MRIs and all that stuff done,” Abby said. “It’s just really interesting to me.”
With Abby soon becoming a student at Iowa, the Burchland family is ready to participate in the Iowa Wave in a different manner.
“Now, it’d be fun to be on the other side,” Allison said.