A tumour diagnosis stole Natasha Gould’s original opportunity to tryout for the Calgary Stars Gymnastics and Cheerleading Club but, on Saturday afternoon, the 12-year-old made her debut alongside her teammates as an honourary member.
“Today is special for me because I have an inoperable brain tumour and without STARS I wouldn’t be able to be on a competitive cheer team,” explained Natasha prior to her team’s performance.
““I’m just excited to be here with the team and excited to be a part of the team.”
Natasha’s mother, Saskia Gould, said her daughter’s Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Gliomas (DIPG) diagnosis in May of last year was life-changing and the young girl was heartbroken to learn it would likely steal her ability to cheer.
“It was around the same time that the tryouts were happening for this competitive cheer team that she was over-the-moon excited about,” recalls Saskia. “The realization that she wasn’t going to be able to tryout because the brain tumour caused weakness in her left side was devastating.”
According to Saskia, DPIG occurs in the brainstem and the tumour becomes interwoven with healthy cells leaving doctors without an avenue to access and remove the unwanted growth.
Word of the diagnosis made its way back to the Calgary Stars and the club’s owner and coach, Jody Poirier, decided to make Natasha an honourary member in February.
“We had an opportunity to come into Natasha’s life and do something for her,” explains Poirier. “Llittle did we know she would be the one impacting us.”
Natasha has undergone radiation treatments that left her unable to pick up items with her left hand or walk long distances.
Undeterred, Natasha began practicing with the team.
“Even though she gets very tired from radiation treatments, they kind of take a lot of energy from her, she still sucks it up to come to practice and to be part of the team,” said Saskia.
Natasha says there’s a simple reason why she’s worked so hard to cheer, “Because I love it!”
The 12-year-old says she has a really good friend on the team and she’s made friends with all of the girls in the different age groups.
“It is a very lonely experience,” said Saskia of her daughter’s medical battle. “Any opportunity that she can feel normal and be part of a group and have the collaboration of a team is a gift.”
On Saturday, Natasha had an opportunity to do what she loves during the Stampede City Showdown Competition at Mount Royal University. Before taking to the mat, the cheerleader realized how far she had come.
“I’m actually doing this,” beamed Natasha. “I never thought I’d be able to do this with cancer but I actually am.”
Throughout the ‘Dream Come True’ team’s performance, her teammates lifted Natasha into the air where the smiling 12-year-old posed and blew kisses. The crowd, numbering in the hundreds, responded with a standing ovation for the young girl’s accomplishment.
The performance was followed by the airing of a video message the band Hedley had recorded especially for Natasha.
When asked if she thought she was an inspiration, Natasha said “I guess it’s kind of my goal.”
“I do like encouraging people to go for their dreams.”
“Natasha’s quickly picked up the cause of being an advocate for kids with cancer and being a voice,” said Saskia. “She started to write and blog and vlog. She’s just done some amazing things in terms of not wanting attention on herself but trying to throw the attention on the cause.”
The Gould family has created a blog to help in the fight against childhood cancer. For more information, visit Pray for Natasha.