Sierra won't let brain tumor deter her from becoming a Disney princess

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Sierra Archer dons a pink princess dress during an 'Adopt-A-Wish' party last week at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Northeast Portland. Just after sitting down to Thanksgiving Dinner in 2011, Amy Archer noticed something wasn’t quite right with her 5-year-old daughter Sierra.

“Something was off with her eye,” the Aloha resident recalls. “We asked her a couple questions, and she said she couldn’t see out of her eye.”

Directed to Oregon Health & Science University Hospital, Sierra underwent an MRI that revealed a brain tumor with a 7- centimeter diameter. A quick surgery reduced some of the pressure, which Archer and her domestic partner Cecily had mistaken for the flu, but little Sierra’s ordeal had just begun.

Now undergoing a chemotherapy protocol designed to reduce the largely inoperable tumor’s size, Sierra, now a sprightly 6-year-old, is holding her own. After more than a year of surgeries, medication and examinations, the Cedar Mill Elementary kindergartner’s primary focus right now is to become a princess — even for just a short time. Through Make-A-Wish Oregon, Sierra will soon be on her way to fulfilling that goal.

On Friday, Sierra, her parents and younger brother Kyle will fly from Portland to Walt Disney World Resorts, where she’ll spend a week meeting her favorite Disney princesses while gallivanting in the Florida sun. Of the numerous attractions of Disney World, Sierra is most excited about the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Downtown Disney, described as a “magical” beauty salon where becoming a princess is closer to reality than fantasy.

“I get to pick out my own princess dress at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and eat lunch with the princesses,” Sierra said on Tuesday.

While citing “every single princess” as her favorite, she’ll be dressing as Ariel from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” series, with her hair and fingernails done just so. Sierra actually got some practice last week, when students at Skyview High School in Vancouver, Wash., threw a party for Sierra — who donned a princess dress — and six other children with life-threatening medical conditions on Feb. 18, as part of the “Adopt-A-Wish” program.

While the whole family is excited, nobody’s enthusiasm can match that of Sierra’s.

“Its’ going to be amazing,” Archer says. “Every day is like a countdown. She’ll say, ‘So, how many days is it before we get on the plane?’ Sierra is so excited.”

Archer admits she and Cecily had some reservations about the hoopla behind Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit group that helps children with life-threatening illnesses fulfill a dream.

“It’s hard, because it’s difficult to think of your child as a Make-A-Wish child. That doesn’t represent a good thing,” she says. “Do we do it now or when she’s older?”

But after Sierra’s first round of chemotherapy didn’t take, Archer realized, “OK, we need to do this soon when she can be really healthy and enjoy the trip.

“We’re pretty honest with her about what’s happening,” she says. “She doesn’t have a grasp on the implications, that it’s life threatening. But she understands she’s different from other kids.”

Even before she learned her princess dreams were within view, Sierra has maintained a positive attitude throughout the whole tumor ordeal — which includes an MRI every three months — and keeps shining her light wherever possible.

“She’s sick a lot, and weaker than a lot of her friends, but when she can move, she doesn’t slow down. She has an active, sparkly personality,” Archer says. “She just loves going to school and playing with her friends, and all the other things kids enjoy doing. She stays really positive and tends to focus on the things she has to look forward to.”

For Sierra, who emphasizes she’s “flown lots of times” in airplanes, those things include “sunshine and swimming in the pool at the hotel. I’m going to miss a whole week of school.”

Praising Kara Post and Darcy LaMotte from Make-A-Wish for their efforts in keeping Sierra’s spirits up, Archer says her daughter is teaching the whole family something about living in the moment.

“She wants to live her normal life,” she says. “Sierra accepts what is now, so she wants to live it and have fun now.”

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