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Henderson Co. girl endures year-long battle with cancer with Christmas puppy by her side

(Photo credit: John Le, WLOS)

A Henderson County family's back home after a long fight with cancer that's forced a little girl to spend much of the past year in hospitals all over the Southeast.

Rug & Home is holding a rug raffle to raise $20,000 for 6-year-old Selah Grace Henderson. Her Selah Grace's Facebook page includes other ways to donate cash to help cover her mounting medical and travel expenses.

RELATED | 5-year-old WNC girl battling cancer, sings 'Fight Song' for crowd

The saga began on Christmas Day, 2015. Selah Grace received the best present ever.

"I believe I remember Santa dropping off a little puppy," mother Michelle Henderson recalled.

Holiday photos tell the story of a banner day Selah Grace Henderson found Nemo under the tree.

"She was like, 'I knew it, I knew it, I knew I was getting a puppy for Christmas!'" Michelle told News 13. "So, we turned on the coffee pot and Christmas Day began."

"I felt really happy!" Selah Grace said recently, with tears in her eyes.

Perhaps she cries because it's complicated. That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship and the start of the family's frightening journey.

Dad Brandon said the dog's been a Godsend. Nemo therapy's been vital.

"Nemo's been very important, he's been able to come see her in the hospital," Brandon explained. "Some of the times when she was down the most, Nemo would come and boost her spirit up."

Selah Grace woke up that December 25 with a cough, so it's unthinkable what they found out a week later.

"Stage four neuroblastoma cancer," Brandon said, still finding it hard to utter the words. "So, from that point, we've been battling ever since."

Since then, most of the Henderson's photos are from hospitals. In January of 2016 she had emergency surgery when a tumor collapsed in her lung.

"It was literally the size of my fist," Brandon said, holding up his hand.

Selah Grace has had five rounds of chemo. She had another tumor removed from her adrenal gland, and stem cell transplants add to the long list.

The Henderson's showed News 13 a dozen photos of Nemo in bed with Selah Grace, sometimes nuzzled next to her in a hospital bed.

Selah Grace experienced a scary setback a few months ago when a seizure left her unable to sit up or talk.

"Not hearing that giggle," Michelle remembered. "That was the first time reality really hit us hard."

"What I learned about her is..." Brandon said, tearing up as he tried to finish the sentence.

Words unsaid say so much. In this case, they speak to a father's endless anguish.

"Excuse me a minute," he told us, asking for a moment of pause. "What I learned about Selah is she is the strongest and the bravest and most courageous and beautiful little girl that I've ever seen."

As Brandon said that, Selah teared up.

"I think it saddens her to see her daddy get upset," Brandon said.

Hospitals in Greenville, Jacksonville and Charleston have become their home away from home, but they're glad to finally be back in Henderson County.

"Her energy's coming back. Her strength's coming back," Michelle said. "And it's just nothing short of a miracle."

Selah Grace is cancer free, but she will need more treatment soon in New York.

"Everything we're doing now is to prevent a relapse," Michelle explained.

That's why the Rug & Home raffle is so vital. The winner gets a $4,000 sari silk rug, and everyone's rooting for the biggest win of all.

"I have 500 to sell," she said, holding a stack of tickets. "We intend that one day she's gonna graduate high school and get married and live a productive, full life."

After 14 months, Selah's appetite is a sign of how far she's come.

"I like hot dogs," said the little girl with a healthy appetite. "Macaroni, cornbread."

The list gives new meaning to the term comfort food.

The Henderson's are hungry for moments that help put the past behind them, moving ahead with the help of Nemo. Through it all, he's been the Christmas gift that keeps on giving.

"Shake!" Selah Grace said to Nemo, holding the paw of the pup that's been there through thick and thin.

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