^pStanding amid the hula-hoop-heavy celebration at the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch recreation center on Wednesday night, Casey Burrows was cool and confident.
^pHer mother, Bunny Burrows, said it’s an attitude that mirrors how Casey, 14, has dealt with life after her diagnosis with a rare form of soft-tissue cancer — epithelioid sarcoma.
^pThe cancer cost Casey her left arm before her 13th birthday.
“There’s no stopping her,” Bunny Burrows said of her daughter. “She’s happy as ever, so that makes us happy.”
After surgery and through regularly scheduled chemotherapy treatments, things are looking positive for the soon-to-be sophomore at Billings West High School. A vacation to Hawaii organized and paid for by Make-A-Wish Montana has only made things better.
The party this week was organized by Make-A-Wish Montana volunteers Kathy Jones and Betsy Ogburn as a way of announcing what their organization had scheduled for the Burrows family in Oahu. Jones seemed happy to help the Burrowses celebrate. “They’re the nicest family,” she said.
The family will take a scenic horseback ride through filming locations for “Lost” and “Jurassic Park,” take a trip to Diamond Head State Monument, ride in a helicopter, attend a luau and have a chance to swim with dolphins.
Casey Burrows unwrapped a rock hammer given to her at the event Wednesday. She explained its significance: While taking an honors earth science course under former geologist and teacher Denece Lord at Billings West, the girl became fascinated with rocks.
“Most people walk on rock and think ‘Oh, it’s just some gray rocks,’ or they get a rock in their shoe and think ‘Oh, stupid rock.’”
That’s not what Lord, and now Casey Burrows, experience.
“(Lord) said ‘Every rock has a story to tell, and I’m going to tell you their stories,’” Casey Burrows said of her teacher.
In addition to watching for interesting rocks and geologic formations, Casey Burrows said she’s excited to get in the ocean. However Bunny Burrows has expressed some reservations about seeing her daughter in the Pacific.
“My mom’s not too keen on me swimming after ‘Shark Week,’” Casey Burrows said, referring to the Discovery Channel’s annual week of summer TV programming that focuses on sharks.
“I said ‘When you get to the beach you are not going in deeper than your ankles!’ ” Bunny Burrows said, laughing.
On a more serious note, Bunny Burrows expressed her gratitude for what Make-A-Wish Montana had given her family. “It means the world that there’s people that care about other people and making their wishes come true,” she said. “It’s just very touching.”
Casey Burrows said she was considering a trip to an amusement park for her wish, but her interest in rocks and encouragement from others to explore somewhere she might not ever be able to go otherwise helped her settle on Hawaii as a destination.
Her sister, 13-year-old Candace, will be coming along too, as well as her father, Travis Burrows. “We get teased by family and friends” that ask “ ‘Why couldn’t you take us?’” Travis Burrows said.