Friends and fun, tea parties and laughter should fill the life of every little girl. But when Millie Flamm and Cami Carver were diagnosed with leukemia, their days were often filled with nurses and needles, head-shaving parties and tears instead.
But through it all they had their dreams.
And they had each other.
The girls met through mutual friends. Millie had just been through the first grinding six-month phase of intense chemo and treatments. Cami was just about to go through it.
Millie was there for Cami during those first difficult life-changing months of chemo, pain, and hair loss. Millie came to Cami’s head shaving party. Millie always had a smile. She always set an example of what a difference a good attitude can make. Millie was unmoving in her stance in finding joy and was truly an inspiration to all, said her mother Amanda.
The girls’ friendship blossomed.
In all, treatments take two and a half to three years, but finally the day came for Millie’s final testing and she got to ring the bell at Primary Children’s Hospital to celebrate.
But the test results were not good. Millie’s cancer was back.
By this time, Cami had been fighting her cancer for over two years and was winding down with treatments. Now it was her turn to be there for Millie who practically lived at the hospital for six months awaiting a bone marrow transplant.
Friends were everything to Millie. Her single overriding fear was of being forgotten by her friends and classmates. But Cami understood. She’d had similar fears. Cami ignored the tubes and the chemo and went often to see Millie at Primary Children’s Hospital.
Their bond of friendship was forged through late nights and movies, giggles and dreams. They had times to hide from and tease the nurses, and quiet times to talk. They spent time drawing and coloring pictures to cheer up other patients too. And when apart they could Facetime on ipads or send sweet, encouraging messages to each other.
In the hospital the girls would imagine and dream and pretend. In their imaginations they could escape from the press of hospital walls and the hum of machines and tubes. Their dreams focused on a carefree, happy world away from pain and discomfort.
Millie especially dreamed of a future of designing and creating things. Their imaginations took them to far-off destinations, provided magical experiences and turned them into princesses. Sometimes their dreams were all they had, said Cami’s mother, Chelsea.
Both Cami and Millie loved swimming, but because of the tubes they were required to have, they weren’t even allowed a deep bath. The girls dreamed of swimming and mermaids, floating weightless, and feeling no pain.
The girls had been fighting cancer together for close to three years when Cami’s turn came to ring the bell and celebrate her final testing.
For ten, wonderful, healthy months Cami was cancer-free. Then she also relapsed. With a 95 percent cure rate for this type of leukemia, the fact that both girls relapsed is highly unusual.
Yet again, Millie and Cami helped each other through the daily struggles and played when times were good. The girls took turns on the giving and receiving sides of friendship. They learned to give back to others and how to be a good friend when they felt well and learned the meaning and importance of kindness and support when they didn’t.
Some friends from Australia wanted to do something special for Millie. They knew how powerful Millie’s imagination was and thought if she could have a mermaid tail it would take her to a different place. Millie loved it! She watched TV in it. She wore it all around the house. She thought it was hilarious that her mother had one too. She begged to go swimming in it.
She wasn’t supposed to go swimming, but as her health declined it became apparent that this was a last wish, a last chance to fulfill a dream. She went just three days before she passed away.
Cami spoke at her funeral. She misses her friend every day.
It wasn’t until after Cami finished her second round of treatments and finally got to go swimming herself that she found out about Millie’s experience with her mermaid tail. At the pool Cami saw a girl wearing a Fin Fun mermaid tail and started wishing, begging, and talking non-stop about it.
As she told Millie’s mom, Amanda Flamm, all about being a mermaid, Amanda pulled out some pictures. There was beautiful Millie—extremely sick, almost too weak to smile—yet the joy of wearing her mermaid tail and having this particular dream come true shined through.
It wasn’t even a surprise for Cami to find out that one of Millie’s dying wishes was to be a mermaid. They were such soul sisters and kindred spirits. They had dreamed about it. Of course Millie had one.
It’s been almost a year since Millie passed away, just short of her eighth birthday, but her influence continues to inspire and help others.
Millie had a special gift for finding joy and happiness in any circumstance she was in, which is extra amazing because of the horrendous things she endured in her short life. Her family courageously follows her example for finding the joy in every day life—Millie’s legacy.
Amanda has learned that true friendship and true love never die. She knows Millie is with Cami constantly. She thinks as Cami grows she will be astounded by how much Millie is with her. The two were meant to be friends.
Cami’s mom Chelsea Carver agrees. She feels the reason these children go through this is so they can be shining lights for the rest of us—to teach us about bravery, attitude, dreams and friendship.
The Flamms continue to help others with Millie’s Princess Foundation, “because cancer is a royal pain.” Friends and neighbors hosted the first 5K run to help with the expenses of Millie’s bone marrow transplant. The race was such a success that they decided to continue it to benefit other families with children fighting cancer. Millie was so excited to attend the second race. Sadly, she passed away just a week before the event. But the 5K run continues to grow and help many families—just what Millie would have wanted.